In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. The Mine follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.
When I was first contacted by the author of The Mine for a review request, I thought long and hard about whether to accept, as I already have so many titles that I need to read and review. In the end, I was charmed by the synopsis, so decided to give a read. And I am really glad that I did, because I really enjoyed this book. It has a very Back to the Future feel to it, and I enjoyed Joel’s journey from the cocky, not-always-likable guy he is at the start, to the more thoughtful, humbled man he is at the end. This is definitely a book worth checking out, particularly if, like me, you have a thing for well-written, well-researched, time travel books.
Admittedly, Joel took a bit of time to grow on me. I didn’t really appreciate the fact that he seemed very “me first” in the beginning, disregarding his friend’s requests to head back to pick up his misplaced sunglasses, and instead doing what Joel wanted to do, and explore the mine that inevitably leads to his journey to the past. There’s also the romance, which is at the heart of this story, between Joel and Grace, a girl he meets in 1941, who is actually already engaged to another. Again, this was very much a “I want her, so I’m going after her,” and while he does wait to get signals from her, he is very proactive in getting what he desires. However, Grace brings out a better side of Joel, and once the two of them are spending more time together, I found myself really warming up to the narrator, which was good, because if he’d continued to annoy me as he had at the start, the book wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable to read. The author does a really great job with his characterization of Joel, and the growth his character goes through.
I also would be horribly remiss if I neglected to mention just how well-researched this book is. From the astronomical phenomena that leads to the time travel, to the historical cities and towns we get to witness through Joel’s eyes, to the descriptions of the way the people spent their time and what they did in 1941 Seattle, all of the research was first-rate. I really felt like I was there with Joel as he navigated his grandmother’s time period and tried to adjust to a life without TV, cellphones and computers. The details of things like the furniture store where Joel works, to the meals that Tom’s mother serves, to the dresses that Grace and the other girls wear, everything was very tangible and descriptive, and I absolutely drank it up.
The book also contains a really fantastic cast of supporting characters, from Tom’s parents, to Ginny, to Linda and Katie, and even Grace’s fiance, Paul. I never felt like I was reading flat, cardboard cutouts; everyone was fully developed and fleshed out, and made Joel and Grace’s journey that much more fun to read about. You got to experience the very real fears that the men of 1941 were facing in terms of the draft, and their part in a war that hadn’t yet hit the US directly. Some of the strongest writing in this book, for me, was when Joel and Tom are talking about Tom’s impending departure for the Army, and the ensuing sadness that Ginny feels once he’s gone. But interspersed with all of this is the humor and wit that many of the characters have, and the strength of character each of them has and shows. Between the historical details and the phenomenal characters, I really had very little to complain about with The Mine.
Do not let the “self-published” part of this book deter you; I definitely think anyone would be able to find something to like about The Mine. Whether you want something well-researched, or you’re looking for a sweet, well-developed romance, or just a man’s journey to find himself, this book has you covered. I’d definitely recommend it!
A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.