Good looking, charming, and a Houdini of impossible situations, Joel Smith is just about to finish college when he makes a decision that literally alters the course of his life. While exploring an abandoned mine in Montana he comes across a portal that sends him back to 1941. His cellphone and money are useless, so with only his wits to guide him he sets off on a journey to Seattle and throws himself into a society that is gradually drifting towards war. After saving a man called Tom, who invites him home for dinner and a place to stay, he immerses himself in a solid friendship group and quickly becomes loved wherever he goes. However, as time goes on and his tracks are getting harder and harder to cover he has to make a choice. Will he stay, or will he try to go back to his own time? The decisions are difficult, especially when it comes to Grace - a beautiful, engaged woman when he first meets her, whom eventually breaks things off with her fiancé to be with Joel.
This book was an extremely enjoyable read. Time travel plots can be tricky, but Heldt focusses on the story and society in which Joel finds himself rather than swamping the reader in how he got there. The cast is an extremely likeable and relatable group, and invites the reader into their easy intimacy. It is a picture of America in a golden time for young people, with one exception - the inevitable approach of war. Joel alone knows what is coming - including the devastating Pearl Harbour - but cannot do anything about it except be there. It's a bubbling undercurrent that provides an interesting and needed tension in an otherwise picture perfect life.
Heldt's sense of place is fantastic. His use of description - detailed without being laboured - results in authenticity and a complete picture of Joel's new, small world. From bars and diners to Mount Rainier and the beach, the reader is invited into a great tour of this little corner of America and makes them yearn for such a golden era again.
My favourite character, I would have to say, is Ginny, whom Joel quickly realises is his grandmother. Smart, independent, loyal and generous, she is probably the most well-fleshed out and complex character of the group. Perhaps this is because not only does Heldt have the young Ginny to play with but also Joel's memories of his grandmother.
With an intriguing plot, good pace and characterisation, and opportunities to ask the bigger questions, "The Mine" is a story that I would highly recommend.