The story begins with Mary Beth McIntire remembering a day in 2017 when her fiancé was killed by a robber in a convenience store hold-up. She is on vacation from her home in Alabama, staying in an ornate old mansion that belongs to friends of her family in Los Angeles. Her reverie is interrupted when she looks out a window and sees a young man in 1950s attire in the backyard. When she gets his attention, he dashes into the basement and disappears. The young man, Mark Ryan, owner of the house in 1959, had found a key, two strange stones, and a document written by Percival Bell, the original owner of the house, describing his theory of time travel to the past and future, and his intent to travel to 2017—a journey he died before taking. Nonplussed, and not a small bit curious, Mark takes the stones and goes to the basement where he finds the portal that takes him to 2017, and a meeting with Beth. From this point, the story switches among characters, and back and forth between 1959 and 2017, as Mark and Beth, along with their siblings, Ben and Piper, get to know each other and their respective times, while at the same time trying to dodge 50s era gangsters who are willing to kill to get a book that Mary Beth brought with her from 2017. This is more than a time-travel novel; it is a story of young love, and a thriller, with sic-fi elements serving as a vehicle for the adventures of four young people who find that love knows no time limits. History, culture, and human relationships are woven seamlessly into a thoroughly delightful story.
Character and Plot
The characters are well-developed and credible; especially as they come to terms with the different social mores of the eras they visit. Their reactions to things from the past (in Mary Beth and Piper’s case) and future (for Mark and Ben) ring true, as do the social dynamics of high school students, which probably haven’t really changed much in the intervening years.
The appearance of the gangster with the bad ear could perhaps been explained better. He just shows up during their visit to Las Vegas, and suddenly takes an unhealthy interest in them, without any further explanation. While it’s explained briefly near the end, it would have been better if some of the reason for his interest had been introduced earlier.
I liked the ending, and while I like to know why characters do what they do as early as possible, Professor Joshua Bell’s actions in saving them and sorting them out near the end was a nice touch.
The book was well edited, and the author’s use of alternating characters, giving each character his or her own chapter, helped to keep the suspense going, and was useful in providing information that was useful to the reader in understanding the story, especially when only one character knew it, and it would have been cumbersome to try and introduce it through any other character, or just through a data dump. I also like the way the author downplayed the science fiction elements, lifting this story above the usual time travel novel and into a category all its own. Elements of history were woven in, and in each case helped to illustrate the character’s motivation and development.
I like the simplicity of the cover, and the way the jukebox figured in the story of the growing romance between Mark and Mary Beth.
I give Heldt five stars for this enchanting novel.