Book Review – The Mine by John Heldt


They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but so often I ignore this advice preferring instead to do exactly that.

Cover art is the thing that draws my attention in the first instance, if it is clearly chick-lit adorned with high heels, coffee cups, lipstick or other fanciful nonsense designed to attract female readers then I avoid it like the plague, I can’t be doing with all that girly tosh, I also tend to avoid covers that don’t inspire me much. Then the title of a book is what interests me next and finally I will read the back cover blurb. If after all three I am still keen, I will buy and eventually (given my history as a possessor of many unread books) I will read the book.

The cover of The Mine is, I must admit, not the sort of cover that would normally draw me in. I could also likely say that the title of the book in all its simplicity gives nothing away to attract attention to the content – thinks “oh a book about a mine, nice” and passes it by…

Well, this attitude would clearly have led to missing out on a great read in this instance had I let my normal ‘judge a book by it’s cover’ lead the way – thank fully I didn’t and I sat down to read the mine on my Iphone – another rarity in itself, I hate reading books in digital formats generally, much preferring to physically hold a ‘real’ book.

So, how did The Mine manage to succeed where so many have failed? – In grabbing my interest and holding it, especially in digital form!? 

First off, as the cover art and title gave so little away this actually prompted me to read the blurb, or rather the synopsis on Amazon in this case being a digital book… here is what the synopsis has to say…

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.

From the opening paragraphs I was instantly drawn in to the writing style and choice of descriptive words used by John Heldt in this his first published novel.

Humor is a key element in painting the visual images of both characters of locations throughout The Mine,  a love-story across time with some intriguing historical content that captivates the reader and helps glue the story into your mind.

At once the main character Joel becomes someone you can feel comfortable with, a quick-witted, all-american hot-blooded young man. From his modern day existence, to the very different life he leads when stuck in the 1940’s you feel a part of his journey all the way. The depth of emotion and struggles with balancing honesty and believability he faces with his new found friends in a time gone-by have you crossing your fingers that he can do the right thing without ending up locked up for insanity!

Each of the other characters takes on a fully rounded personality that helps you feel as connected with them as Joel becomes, from his 21 year old cigarette toting, journalist grandmother Ginny and his saviours the furniture store magnate Carter family and of course love interest engaged to a drafted soldier Grace.

Modern-day pal Adam starts out a fairly full character, but I would have liked to see a bit more of him and his relationship with Joel following Joel’s time in the Mine, how did their friendship change/develop after Joel had experienced something so profound? This is the only aspect of the story I would have liked to see developed a bit more.

The development of the relationship between Joel and Grace is beautiful and moving, without becoming soppy or unrealistic. You can really sense the torment both parties face in handling their growing feelings and later the impending end of their fledgling relationship.

When Joel starts his journey in 1941 after entering the Mine in 2000 his ability to adapt to the very different lifestyle of America facing impending involvement in World War II is handled deftly and when he returns to his own time his struggle to determine if what he experienced was real or imagined is likewise given due attention. It is a shame Joel’s grandmother, the delightful Ginny, had passed away so we could not see how their relationship developed following his return but the sweet older version of Katie makes a wonderful go-between re-connecting Joel to both era’s and his lost love…

The ending has such an interesting and heart-wrenching twist, that you either least expect or see coming depending on your way of seeing things (for me it was the former) it had me in tears I was so moved by the revelation.

Overall The Mine is a superbly written historical, time-travellers love-story filled with sentiment and humour that I highly recommend to readers of all genres even if you would not normally read any of the above – go ahead, give it a go, you won’t regret it I assure you!!

 “The Mine,” by John Heldt is available on Amazon.com and  is also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble. The book features humor, 1940s history, time travel, and an old-fashioned love story. 

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