Book Reviews

Book Review: The Fountain

By John. A. Heldt

Published August 2022

567 Pages

Bill Carpenter has recently buried his wife.  His brother Paul has terminal cancer.  Their sister, Annie, has been a paraplegic for nearly sixty years.  The elderly siblings don’t have much more to look forward to in their golden years.  Until they hear a rumor of a fountain of youth in Mexico.  The legend says that not only do people who enter the fountain reemerge youthful, but also in a different time.

Daring to try at a second chance in life, the siblings make the trek to Mexico and enter the fountain.  They come out of the water as young adults and teenagers in 1905.  Now that they have the opportunity, the siblings are determined to make the most of it.  Moving from Portland to Oakland, California, all three throw themselves into the new life they’ve been given.  But a natural disaster looms on the horizon; will it destroy the lives they’re building almost before they begin?

When I started reading this, I honestly thought the fountain was hypothetical and this was a family saga.  I was wrong.  However, it’s also not really a time travel book.  It falls more in the realm of historical fiction.  From the time the siblings decide to move to California, the book revolves around the looming threat of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that devastated the city.  Of course, none of them can remember exactly when the earthquake hits and have started relationships with people living in San Francisco.  This is the main tension running through the book.

“The Fountain” interpreted by Wombo Dream

Unfortunately, aside from the looming natural disaster, this book reads a lot like “Pleasantville” set 50 years earlier.  There’s a definite lack of tension.  Everyone gets along.  Everyone is polite.  Everyone manages to accomplish everything they set their minds to with apparent ease.  I found myself skimming ahead a few times hoping for an argument or disagreement, something to break up niceness.  

As far as the historical fiction aspect, it was interesting watching people from the 21st century drop back to the early 20th century.  As you might imagine, there was more than one blunder using a term that hadn’t been invented in 1905.  But there wasn’t a lot of detail on how their lives were impacted.  There was no mention of lack of amenities, personal hygiene, differences in fashion, or anything that might have raised an eyebrow or provided a stumbling block.  Not even things that would have made it easier for them (such as no need for passports or other formal documentation) aside from one quip about not having to pay income taxes.

The premise was interesting, but I thought the emphasis was on the wrong bits; I would have preferred to have felt more emotion during and after the earthquake rather than on how great everything was most of the time.

The sibling’s paths do diverge at the end of the book, so there’s some promise of more tension in book two of this trilogy.

3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the author for providing the ARC ebook.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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