Joel Smith is celebrating his upcoming college graduation with his friend Adam Levy by going on a road trip. It’s the end of their trip and time to go back to Seattle, but on the way Joel – much to Adam’s annoyance – decides to take a short detour and check out an old mine in Helena, Montana. Inside the mine, he sees blue light coming from one of the chambers and goes to investigate. After trying to get away from a rattlesnake, he hits his head and passes out. When he wakes up and leaves the mine, it’s to find everything is different. Now in 1941, and unable to find a way back to his own time in 2000, he heads to Seattle and inadvertently makes friends with his 21-year-old grandmother and her group of friends. Stuck in the past, he makes the most of his time there, even with the ever-looming threat of war coming to the United States, and the knowledge he bears from his own time.
When I was reading The Mine, there was a quote rattling around in my head from the movie Titanic that I just could not shake. It was what Jack said during dinner with Rose and the other wealthy people in First Class: “You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count.”
That quote very much applies not only to the situation (and time) Joel finds himself in, but also his personality that enables him to handle being stuck in time so well. In some ways, he was able to get by a bit too well for my liking – he minored in History in college (though he wanted to major in it but his father wouldn’t let him), had great secondhand knowledge of the era from his grandparents’ stories and his interest in the culture of the time (his mother once commented “he had been born fifty years past his time”), and he knew enough facts about fights and baseball from 1941 to place and win three incredible bets – but at the same time, it helped to show how much damage one from our time could do by going back in time if given the chance. Instead of interfering, Joel did his best to simply let things take their course as they were meant to, though he did give some great veiled advice to one character, Japanese-American Katie Kobayashi.
John A. Heldt did a wonderful job with incorporating Joel into 1941 and making 1941 accessible to me. He included some great historical facts and items from the period such as cameras and home appliances. Heldt made the threat of war very real, especially with the character of Tom Carter whose fate Joel knew almost as soon as he’d met him thanks to stories his grandmother had told him. Though that might be off-putting to some, it showed the importance of life, taking things as they come, and more of the dangers of time travel. Incorporating so much detail of the past, however, did mean it took me longer to read The Mine than I’d have liked because I sometimes had to stop reading because I wanted to look something up on the Internet to see exactly what something looked like or get more details that would have slowed the narrative down had Heldt included them.
You can read the rest of my review at my blog: http://readerlymusings.com/2013/10/17/book-review-the-mine-by-john-a-heldt/