4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart by Charles Sheldon is one of the most powerful books I have read in a while. Tom, William, and Myra are packing for a camping trip when there is a knock on the door. When it opens there stands Ruth, Tom’s ex-wife. She proceeds to tell him that his daughter, Becky, is dead and she has left behind a daughter they didn’t know about. Sarah is 13 and has been in trouble off and on. After her mom died and her step-dad left her with Ruth. Ruth decided she was too hard to handle and that she was now Tom’s responsibility.
Sarah makes it clear from the moment she walks in that she isn’t happy and that none of this is her choice. William mentions they are packing from camping and suggests to Tom that they all take Sarah with them. The next day the foursome sets out with their packs. Long hikes and primitive camping are not Sarah’s favorite activities, however, she finds joy in being able to pull out her sketchpad and draw in nature. The purpose of their hike is to return an ancient native throwing tool to Tom’s grandfathers grave up in the mountains. This would be Sarah’s great grandfather and over the course of the trip, she learns why this tool is so important. On the trails, they encounter a group of folks that want to dig in the mountains on ancient lands. Myra and William are native to the lands and they are very upset about their scared ground being used for corporate digging. They discuss with Sarah the importance of her native heritage and the importance of tradition.
During their trip, Sarah goes missing. After eight days she returns with a head wound, skinny, and missing a finger. She shares a wild story of native people and a trip she took. The group struggles to understand what happened to her. From there she is then removed from Tom’s care until one day she shows up again at Myra’s and reports being abused in Ruth’s home. So their adventure begins again in order to find the throwing tool that was lost on the first trip and to protect Sarah from an abusive step-grandfather.
What I liked most was the strong themes of resiliency, family, and doing the right thing. This entire book was filled with each character having to make choices that included personal sacrifice for the greater good of the group or the planet. Each character was strong in a different way and their strengths played off each other well.
What I disliked most was the part where Sarah is sharing her story for the first time about what happened to her during the time she was missing. This part was vital to the book, however, it added in too many characters and was confusing to keep them all straight. I had to reread several paragraphs just to make sure I could try and understand what was going on.
This would be a great book for anyone who likes adventure stories, family stories, or themes that include the underdog. There is minor profanity and a section that eludes to abuse, but I don’t think these things are big enough to detract from the book and truly are used to enhance the story. I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was a great read, well-edited, and left me wanting more.
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