4 out of 4 stars
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The audible book, Strong Heart, is written by Charlie Sheldon and narrated by Laurel Anne White. The story follows Sarah, a thirteen year old girl with seemingly no place to call home, and Tom, Sarah’s grandfather. Completely unaware of Sarah’s existence, Tom only learns about her when she is unexpectedly dropped off at his front door. The timing couldn’t be more unfortunate as Tom and his friends, William and Myra, were about to embark on a trip to visit the grave of Tom’s grandfather, located deep in the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula. Not wanting to cancel, Tom decides to bring Sarah along. After drawing the image of a short faced bear she claims to have seen, Sarah mysteriously disappears along with a very important artifact. Although Tom and his friends find it hard to believe Sarah actually saw the animal, whose species has been extinct for thousands of years, they can’t deny there is something unusual about the girl and the circumstances of her disappearance.
The audible narration of Strong Heart was not the strongest narration I’ve heard. The narrator’s voice sounds very monotone and robotic at times, having a tinny ring to it. I’m not sure if this is due to the recording or if it is the narrator’s actual voice. Voice variation was provided for different characters and though mostly successful, felt forced and confusing in some places. More than once, the narration failed to hold my attention; however, the curious storyline kept me wanting to listen.
Strong Heart provides a magical blend of science, native mysticism, and the exploration of familial ties. These themes are all interwoven throughout the story, creating a cohesive and powerful plot. The book is written partially in Sarah’s point of view, as she recounts the outlandish events surrounding her disappearance. Sarah’s voice was the most successful aspect of the story. The author masterfully captures the essence of a teenage girl, lost in the world, and trying to believe in herself when most others don’t believe in her at all. Sarah’s narration was both captivating and enigmatic. I don’t think I’ve ever read about a girl like Sarah before, and I find myself contemplating her character long after the story’s end.
The main characters were not given much backstory, which would normally be a negative aspect of any book; however, it worked really well in this novel. As the plot progresses, the characters develop based on their unexpected interactions with each other. Their mysterious backgrounds only add to the enchanting, mystical tone of the story. While listening to the novel, I felt like I knew everything about the feelings and internal struggles of the main characters. However, after some reflection, I realized the author actually provided very little detail about the character’s lives, proving his talent as a writer.
My enjoyment of the unique and mysterious story leads me to rate the book 4 out of 4 stars; however, I was tempted to deduct a star for the audible narration. Because I enjoyed so many aspects of the characters and plot, and found merit in the narrator's voice variation, I decided to stand by my initial rating. Those who enjoy fiction about native legends and mysticism will find themselves engrossed in this book. To those who have difficulty paying attention to less than engaging narrators, I would recommend reading the book rather than listening to the audible version.
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