The Mine (Tales From a Revolution — Connecticut)
by Lars D. H. Hedbor
When I prepared myself to read the next installment in author Lars D.H. Hedbor’s Tales from a Revolution series, I knew chances were high I’d enjoy the story. Set during the American Revolution, each young adult novel in a different colony, the books capture a snapshot in time within the lives of fictional characters who very well could have actually existed. As an amateur historian, astronomer, fiddler, home brewer, linguist and baker, Hedbor is well placed to know a thing or two about this era and the ordinary details of people’s lives. It was this that attracted me to the series in the beginning because, as I’ve repeatedly stated, there is much to love and admire in the ordinary, from the versatility to variety, how people relate to one another, what they notice in their lives and what is important to them. When faced with war, some of this changes; much of it does not. They still have to keep their teeth clean, plough the fields, collect groceries and—in spite of or perhaps because of the war—they continue to do things such as dream about their futures and fall in love.
This was as evident in The Mine as in any of Hedbor’s other tales, with the added layer of a Loyalist protagonist, a perspective we’d not seen since The Break, the author’s Nova Scotia entry (and which also leads us into territory not destined to become American soil). Moreover, Hedbor adds a pinch of romance for Alec Tinworth, perhaps the most astounded of all to realize his affections, given that he inhabits one dank corner of a mine shaft as prisoner to the Rebels who captured him. And the author wastes no time getting us to this point: the story opens with Alec climbing down a ladder into the dark space, his life before now almost a mere memory, as if he and it are done with forever—at least this is what his jailers seem to want him to believe. They’ve got a good gig here working the prisoners, whose labor financially benefits their nail-making enterprise. But Alec soon discovers his captors are not the only threat to his survival and, as an escape plan hatches, he must take a chance with trust if he is ever to see his ordinary world again.
In The Mine, Hedbor stays true to his avoidance of bias for either side amongst the colonists. Certainly the stories could be said to belong more to the Rebels, given that without their response to tyranny and determination to make change, there would be no revolutionary stories for the author to write. Still, his exploration of Loyalist perspective digs past the “victor writes history” reality in search of these ordinary people whose voices fall silent in our studies. They are who we often forget, ordinary because, despite being the majority (within Loyalists v. Rebels), they were so many having to fend off so few creating a new type of social order, one that was the exception to all they had ever known about how life is lived, how societies function. There were so many of them that they weren’t particularly special—it was the Rebels who were the exception within these developing times.
Hedbor combines this reality with that of imprisonment, resulting in an undercurrent of psychological study running through the tale. We see Alec almost shape shift into someone different depending upon who he interacts with, and his first encounter with the Rebels upon capture calls into question even what he believes. When he learns he is being detained by an old acquaintance whose father recently died, he offers:
“I am sorry to hear that you’ve lost your father, Jim. My dad spoke well of him, up until he turned traitor to the King.”
Jim cuffed him across the face with the back of his hand [and] said, “’Tis not my father who is found traitor to his country tonight, Alec.”
When a love interest comes into play, we see Alec address this internally, more than once plagued by internal questioning as to how to present himself: to the visiting barber, the jailers and his fellow prisoners. Even the language within letters to his father is guarded. Identity and loyalty are packaged together and Hedbor skillfully propels Alec forward, step by precarious step, in a manner authentic to one in his position.
This is a strength for Hedbor and one that makes the series stand out amongst stories on the Revolution. Most seem to feature the iconic—and who doesn’t get a thrill at meeting up with General Washington? But people also want to know about those such as themselves. How would they have fared during this time? What about the Loyalists? Were people always afraid? Hedbor’s presentation of regular colonists—whether they sympathize with Rebels or Loyalists—brings us closer to answering some of these questions, and the glimpses of what to them would have been exceedingly uninteresting, such as baking bread or reading a newspaper headline, provide us an idea too of their identities, not only pertaining to where sympathies lie, but also how much of ourselves we can see in them—and their humanity.
Once more Hedbor brings us a story based in actual history—in this case Connecticut’s New-Gate Prison, guard Gad Sheldon and events of the time—and adds vivid elements for another revolutionary tale that peels back the layers of time to show us happenings people of the era very likely read about in those newspapers. Long forgotten by many of us, we get to see them play out in dramatic detail against a storied backdrop too often known to us only in legend.
You may also wish to have a peek at my previous reviews for
Tales From a Revolution—
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To see information on each book, click here.
Really fun interview with Lars Hedbor here.
About the author …
What made the American Colonists turn their back on their King, and fight for independence? How were they different from us–and how were their hopes and fears familiar to our own hearts?
These are the sorts of questions that I think are important to ask in examining the American Revolution, and in the pages of my novels, I suggest some possible answers.
My first novel, The Prize, was published in 2011, followed by The Light in 2013, and The Smoke, The Declaration, and The Break in 2014; The Wind was published in 2015, and The Darkness in 2016.
I’ve also written extensively about this era for the Journal of the American Revolution, and have appeared as a featured guest on an Emmy-nominated Discovery Network program, The American Revolution, which premiered nationally on the American Heroes Channel in late 2014. I am also a series expert on America: Fact vs. Fiction for Discovery Networks, and was a panelist at the Historical Novel Society’s 2017 North American Conference.
I am an amateur historian, linguist, brewer, fiddler, astronomer and baker. Professionally, I am a technologist, marketer, writer and father. My love of history drives me to share the excitement of understanding the events of long ago, and how those events touch us still today.
Author photo courtesy Lars D.H. Hedbor
Free copy of The Mine provided by author,
with no expectation of a full review.