3 out of 4 stars
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Charming. That´s the word I would use to sum up Strong Heart by Charlie Sheldon. Utterly charming. If, like me, you are a sucker for an uplifting tale where troubled characters bond together to overcome adversity, you won´t be disappointed.
I learned a few things whilst reading this book. Fascinating things, actually. About the majesty of the scenery in the Olympic National Park on the North Pacific Coast of the USA, which the author describes with understated eloquence. Also about Native American Indian origin theories and how they tie in with the origin and geographical displacement of ancient man. The author represents two differing views on how mankind traveled and morphed oodles and oodles of thousands of years ago, both of which I found mind-boggling.
Much of the book centers around an epic trek in the wilderness which evolves into a journey of spiritual awakening and human bonding. The four main characters are an unlikely bunch and all the more believable for it. I thought the author´s depiction of Sarah was quite vivid. She radiates adolescent hostility and is pricklier than a hedgehog. Her grandfather Tom, who didn´t even know he was a grandfather until Sarah showed up on his doorstep, is quite a sensitively drawn character. I felt for him as he struggled to find a way to connect with Sarah, sometimes being rejected and other times just plain old putting his foot in it and saying the wrong thing. I´ve done that myself a few times. Haven´t we all?
That leaves William and Myra to make up the fated four. William´s character is warm, wise and funny. His daughter Myra is an intelligent, professional, take-no-nonsense kind of lady. She´s also fiercely protective of those she loves. This small band of people set off into the wilderness. Little did they know as they took their first steps of their trek how life was going to bind them with interweaving threads that would never be broken.
Along the way, Sarah goes missing. Search parties are organized. Helicopters circle. Days and nights pass with no sign of Sarah and then she suddenly appears, wounded, nearly starved, and with an incredible tale. She claims she was taken prisoner by members of an ancient primitive tribe who had endured a long journey across an icy sea in a wooden canoe in search of new wives. The author´s simple yet fluid writing style is very effective at bringing these passages to life. There is plenty of action which will have you greedily turning the pages as Sarah describes attacks from ancient wild animals (now extinct), injuries, struggles with the weather at sea and death. I was effortlessly carried along by the author´s descriptions of the terrible hardships endured in this ancient time by both the captors and their much-coveted prisoners. Whether I believed in these types of visions or experiences or not didn´t seem to matter, I was just lapping up the story and am sure you will too.
It´s not all spiritual and coming of age, though. There´s a parallel plot along the lines of a corporate giant trying to squash the little people. This gives the scenes set in the present timeline a framework for the rest of the book to rest on. The only thing I didn´t like was the ending, which felt like a loose thread, hanging and waiting to be tied off. The ´About The Author´ page at the end of the book mentions a sequel, but in my mind, a novel should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Sequel or not. For that reason I am reluctant to give the book a perfect score and rate it 3 out of 4 stars.
Strong Heart has been extremely cleanly edited and the layout of the version I read was smooth and professional. Just like they say on the boxes of family board games, it will appeal to anyone from early teens to a hundred-plus. There´s no profanity and no erotica, just a good tale told well.
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