4 out of 4 stars
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Sarah, a young, ornery and artistic teenaged girl, shows up at her grandfather’s cottage unannounced. She is accompanied by her grandmother, Ruth, who tells Tom (her grandfather) that she does not want the girl. Tom is busy packing for a camping trip with his best friend William (also called Walleye because of a lopsided eye) and William’s daughter, Myrna. Tom is surprised to learn that he has a granddaughter as his daughter ran away when she was fifteen. William convinces Tom to take Sarah camping with them, and he grudgingly agrees.
The group spend days hiking and camping in the Olympic National Park, looking for the place where Tom buried his grandfather, Bob-Bob. He wants to return an atlatl that he took from the park fifty-odd years before. Sarah is unhappy to be there, but she quickly makes friends with Myrna and William. Myrna quietly convinces Sarah that this is a land of magic, history and legend. While camping one night, Sarah claims to see a short-faced bear that has been extinct for over twelve thousand years. Nobody believes her, and after a brutal argument with Tom, Sarah takes the atlatl and storms off.
Sarah becomes lost and Tom, William and Myrna spend days searching for her. The rangers and surveyors in the area also join in the search. After eight days, they finally give up hope of finding her alive. Sarah unexpectedly returns to the camp during a storm and does not talk for days. When she finally does she tells an unbelievable story of what happened to her.
She believed herself to be another young woman, named Strong Heart, taken from a land of grass across the seas to become a wife. She tells of her journey and the people with her. There are not many people in the land, only large and wild animals. They lose many people on the journey and Strong Heart learns many skills, such as throwing darts and carving. They eventually arrive at the land of the smoking peaks and Sarah awakens in a cave. She says that the short-faced bear was her guide and led her back to Tom’s camp. The group is sceptical of Sarah’s story but they eventually come to believe her as more events unfold.
Sarah and Tom eventually begin to build a relationship after Tom realizes that she has been abused by both her step-brother and her step-grandfather. He then protects her and she starts to trust him, even affectionately calling him Tom-Tom.
Strong Heart, written by Charlie Sheldon is a beautiful and heart-warming story. The paragraphs flow smoothly from one to the next and the words chosen are imaginative and colourful. The reader will be gripped by the warmth of the relationships between the characters and the colourful imagery of the landscape that the author creates.
Charlie Sheldon writes about Sarah and her group in the third person, but he writes Strong Heart’s story in the first person. This clearly differentiates the two stories and allows the reader to know immediately whose story he is telling at that time.
I will give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Strong Heart is a well-thought-out story and contains a lot of important details relating to the story. If you love archaeology and sociology, then this book is definitely for you. I, personally, am not all that interested in archaeology or sociology, and yet this book gripped me and would not let go. This is a must read for everybody.
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