Steven C. Eisner’s debut novel, The Mine Fields, is a story about ambition, loss, dreams, and finding happiness, told against the backdrop of the advertising industry.

Our hero, Sam Spiegel, grew up the son of an ad man. Entrepreneurial from a young age, Sam takes on the challenge of changing his father’s small agency into one of Philadelphia’s most successful firms. Just as Sam’s dream of attracting an advertising conglomerate and cashing out are on the horizon, the unthinkable happens. Now, everything and everyone Sam has depended on and fought for is at risk and Sam starts to take stock of what’s really important.

The glimpse into the world of advertising is a great aspect of the book, but it’s really the backdrop for the meat of the story.

Everything is about relationships. Sam wants to do right by his father’s legacy, and at the same time, make it greater. Yet this puts a strain on their relationship and father and son struggle to see eye to eye.

Sam’s relationship with his brother Mikey has always been tricky but a terrible accident in their childhood put an irrevocable strain on the brothers’ relationship.  Even Sam’s relationship with his wife, Amy, falls apart as Sam sees everything he’s worked for slipping away.

This is when Eisner gives the heart of the story: when everything is crumbling around you, do you give in and accept it, or do you fight for what you really want? Most of the book read to me less like a novel and more like having a drink with someone who’s telling you his interesting life story.  But when Sam’s world crumbles,  The Mine Fields ratchets up a thrill.  I started thinking about possible outcomes, and really hoping to see a couple of them.

Thankfully, Eisner chose a different path that what initially crossed my mind.  He could have gone a cliched route where everything works out perfectly in the end, but instead, Eisner gives his readers a more complex, and more relatable resolution.

I think The Mine Fields benefits from Eisner’s experience as the chief executive of an advertising agency. It lends Sam a credibility and authenticity that might otherwise not be there. And I think it provides reality in the advertising campaign aspects of the story.  Thankfully, The Mine Fields is less a soap opera than Mad Men, but the same character development that draws fans to Don Draper also drives Sam Spiegel.

I’m glad I had a chance to be a part of the blog tour for The Mine Fields.  You can learn more about the book and book tour here.