Joel Smith is a 21-year-old college student from Seattle, on a trip with a friend visiting Yellowstone in May of 2000. On the way back, outside Helena, Montana, he decides on a whim to explore an abandoned gold mine. While his impatient buddy waits at the car, he enters the mine, finds a mysteriously glowing cavern, sees a rattle snake, drops his flashlight and as he withdraws he bumps his head and passes out.
When he comes to, he walks back out of the mine and finds a different world. He soon figures out that it is May 1941. His cell phone is useless, his 2000 vintage money is funny-money, and his clothes are definitely wrong for the period.
He rides a freight train from Helena to Seattle and soon starts a new life. In his circle of friends he even meets his own grandmother as a young college girl. Eventually he falls in love with a girl named Grace, who is engaged to another man.
He does not know if his trip was one-way. But he does know his sports trivia, which enables him to gamble and win money. He also knows that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and the lives of Americans would change drastically.
Joel is careful not to change the past and history, since it might affect his own existence, particularly when he is hanging around with his own grandmother.
The Mine is a romance novel. The author spends a lot of time weaving the web of the complex social lives of a group of 1941 college kids that Joel finds himself surrounded by. Those college kids have relationships, they fall in love, and in lust, and things don’t always end up clean.
The book is very well narrated, containing just the right amount of dialog versus exposition, and it moves along at a good, steady pace. The only distractions I noticed were the frequent use of trite clichés. For instance, Joel never just put on jeans. He always “threw on a pair of jeans.” Joel’s 2000 girlfriend Jana “was as good as it got.” Road signs were “small potatoes.” The author used these types of hackneyed expressions often enough that I found it distracting.
Also, Joel was a bit too much of a superman. Landing in 1941, he becomes a crack furniture salesman overnight. He seems to have a photographic memory of sports trivia and statistics. He is super good-looking so all the girls are attracted to him at first sight. He is a great fist fighter. And he is very sensitive and a great friend to everyone. He falls madly in love with Grace, but when it becomes time to leave her, it seems to not be a very difficult decision. All through the story, Joel is somewhat too good to be true.
Overall, The Mine is a very entertaining story, a well told and expertly paced time travel tale with a romantic twist, or perhaps more aptly: romance with a time travel twist.
Rating: ** 1/2