4 out of 4 stars
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On the eve of a backpacking trip to visit his grandfather’s grave deep in the Olympic Peninsula, Tom Olsen receives an unexpected visitor. His ex-wife, Ruth, turns up at his doorstep with a granddaughter he never even knew he had. Sarah is a sullen teenager who is not happy to have been left there by Ruth. Tom cannot cancel the trip and decides to take Sarah along.
His friend William and his daughter Myra also accompany them. Sarah is a talented artist and sketches the image of a short-faced bear she claims to have seen. Myra is disturbed by the drawing because the short-faced bear last walked the earth during the Ice Age. Shortly afterward, Sarah goes missing. She reappears a week later, injured and tells an unbelievable tale.
Strong Heart is a perfect blend of science and native mysticism. It also explores familial ties. We see a grandfather and a granddaughter who have no idea how to deal with their newfound relation. William and Myra are very close to each other though they do not show any outward display of affection. Myra is very concerned about her father’s failing health. William wants to watch out for his daughter like when she was a child but knows that she is an adult now and must find her own way. He is finding it difficult to accept it.
The central characters have been portrayed well. I loved Sarah’s character. She is stubborn and headstrong on the outside. As the story progresses you realize that she is just a lonely girl with no family who is starving for affection. Myra is level-headed and helps the old men deal with Sarah. She only loses her cool with Sergei, the scientist friend of William, who accompanies them on the second trip. William is more understanding towards Sarah and believes her claim. He tries to soften Tom towards Sarah. Tom is a stubborn old man. We can see where Sarah gets her nature from. Tom cares for Sarah and wants to be a good grandfather to her but is not sure if he is able to.
The writing is easy to follow once you get used to the sentence structure. The story has hidden depths and I enjoyed it immensely. Charlie Sheldon has succeeded in creating the perfect blend of the deep-rooted legends and harsh realities of life in Native American communities. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys native mysticism and legends. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
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