Northwest Passage Book

The Mirror

The Mirror
Published: March 1, 2014
Author's Twitter: @johnheldt
On September 11, 2020, Ginny and Katie Smith celebrate their nineteenth birthday at a country fair near Seattle. Ignoring the warnings of a fortune-teller, they enter a house of mirrors and exit in May 1964. Armed with the knowledge they need to return to their time, they try to make the most of what they believe will be a four-month vacation. But their sixties adventure becomes complicated when they meet a revered great-grandmother and fall in love with local boys. In The Mirror, the continuation of The Mine and The Show, the sisters find happiness and heartbreak as they confront unexpected challenges and gut-wrenching choices in the age of civil rights, the Beatles, and Vietnam.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

5 Stars

A Charming Story

 

On September 11, 2020, twins Ginny and Katie Smith go to the Cedar River County Fair to celebrate their 19thbirthdays. They’ve been going to the same fair for eight years, but this is the first time they go without their parents. Bored, they visit Marta the Magnificent, who warns them that they’re about to embark on a ‘strange and dangerous’ journey. What they don’t realize until it’s too late, though, is that the journey they will take is not to ‘where’ but ‘when.’

When Katie steps through a mirror in the House of Mirrors, and Ginny goes after her, they find themselves in Seattle on May 2, 1964, unsure if they can ever find their way back home to their own time.

The Mirror by John A. Heldt is a story that seems on the surface to be science fiction – after all, it is about time travel – but, is in fact about culture shock and growing up. Ginny and Katie face the kind of dilemma that ancient travelers from developed cultures must have faced when encountering less developed societies for the first time. How much are you allowed to interfere based upon greater knowledge? The two intrepid time travelers also learn a lot about themselves and their family as they deal with smoking in restaurants, the lack of plastic bags in grocery stores, the war in Vietnam, and race relations in the U.S. in the 1960s.

I hesitate to call this a ‘charming’ story, because that seems dismissive, but it is in fact, charming. It is also profound, in that it addresses issues that are with us in 2015, only slightly changed from the 1960s, but does so in a way that allows us to assess them dispassionately as remote observers. The characters are believable, and the picture the author paints of the era absolutely authentic. The Mirror explores human relations and the human condition with a measure of humor mixed with seriousness that will keep you reading, and leave you thinking.

Without hesitation I give this book five stars.

The Fire

The Fire
Published: September 1, 2013
Author's Twitter: @johnheldt
When Kevin Johnson, 22, goes to Wallace, Idaho, days after his college graduation, he expects to find rest and relaxation as his family prepares his deceased grandfather's house for sale. Then he discovers a hidden diary and a time portal that can take him to 1910, the year of Halley's comet and the largest wildfire in U.S. history. Within hours, Kevin finds himself in the era of horse-drawn wagons, straw hats, and ankle-length dresses. Traveling repeatedly to the same time and place, he decides to make the portal his gateway to summer fun. The adventure takes a more serious turn, however, when the luckless-in-love science major falls for pretty English teacher Sarah Thompson and integrates himself in a community headed for disaster. Filled with humor, romance, and heartbreak, THE FIRE, the sequel to THE JOURNEY, follows a conflicted soul through a life-changing journey as he makes his mark on a world he was never meant to see.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

October 21, 2014

While on a family trip to Wallace, Idaho, Kevin  finds a relative’s secret diary that explains the shed in the back yard is actually a time machine.  Being young and adventurous, Kevin decides to have a go and is transported to 1910.  He makes friends, develops a positive reputation within the town, and even lands a serendipitous position as a school teacher.  Kevin’s reason for staying in 1910 for as long as he did is a lovely lady named Sarah.  Additionally, he meets a second young lady (Sadie) who seems to have affections for him.

While I expected Kevin, as the main character, to be the only point of view, the story was built through multiple points of view, some even being minor characters.  The author was kind enough to announce these changes at the beginning of each chapter.  As three-fourths of the novel was from Kevin’s perspective, it felt like a lazy way of telling the reader about a character.  The point of view changes were distracting, especially when Sarah or Sadie took the stage.  It allowed for redundant reflections that the reader knew from previous interactions told from Kevin’s perspective.  Instead of adding a sense of romance or heartache, it slowed down the progression of the, otherwise engaging , narrative.  The love story plays out rather unpredictably through charming dialogue.

The premise of the novel was unique and Heldt’s research on the time period shows.  His description of the town of Wallace and the nuances of life lived in 1910 bring the reader back in time with Kevin and create a wistful desire to return to simpler times.  The year itself acts as a character and creates a tension in the back of our mind since we readers (and Kevin) know about the forest fire that will occur in August of 1910.

While The Fire is billed as a historical romance, let it be known that the novel breaches two genres: historical romance and science fiction.  The novel also champions the subjects of science and history by casually mentioning the importance of both during dialogue and internal reflections of the characters.  An excellent starter for sci-fi fans wishing to branch out.