The Mine, by John A. Heldt, is a triumph in storytelling — truly a book you don’t want to put down. This unassuming tale of a brash young man who goes into an abandoned mine in the year 2000 and comes out in prewar 1941 is a classic — a love story combined with outstanding science fiction.
Twenty-one year-old Joel Smith leaves behind a girlfriend, a best friend and an unfinished life that, for him, was just beginning at the start of the new millennium. He arrives in Seattle, his former hometown, straight from the railyards. He has added rail-riding hobo lore to his ever-growing list of new skills.
It is an unlikely place for a love story to have its genesis. He’s drowsing on a park bench — dirty, unshaven, but still apparently irresistible to twenty-one year-old Grace Vandenberg, newly engaged, but nevertheless attracted to the figure reposing in the park.
Joel rescues Tom Carter from a back alley beating and the two become good friends. Tom’s family adopts Joel and even skeptically buys his story about being the wayward runaway son of a Montana rancher.
Things get even more interesting when Joel meets his up-and-coming journalist grandmother, Ginny Gillette, who pins him down one afternoon for the real story. Joel, however, doesn’t stray from his cover and the time-space continuum remains in place — for now.
The author’s easygoing narrative style is flawless. When Ginny suggests an evening at the ballpark where Joel will escort Grace instead of another young woman, a frantic conversation is triggered in Joel’s head:
“He felt as genuine as Eddie Haskell in a heartfelt conversation with Mrs. Cleaver — ‘I’m sorry Theodore can’t join me and Wallace for the game’ — but he did not care. He’d give his left steely for an evening with Blondie.”
Needless to say, the plot thickens as Joel must carefully negotiate his way through his mostly-made-up life story and his strong urge to alter — or at least mitigate — the future. Late in the book, as he contemplates whether he should enlist in America’s desperate fight, he considers a possible future in the Forties:
“He could do what Patrick Smith had done on December 8, 1941, and enlist. But how strange would that be, serving in his grandfather’s war? Would he storm the same beach in 1944 and take a bullet meant for someone else?” The questions leave him breathless, as they will you, the reader, as you follow Joel through the most difficult decision he’ll ever make.
In the end, the author ties the story up with a Hallmark movie ending that you won’t see coming. Suffice to say, it brought tears to my eyes.
I only wish I had more than five stars to award to such a finely crafted piece of writing. Take my advice and download this book today. You’ll be glad you did.