4 out of 4 stars
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Title: STRONG HEART
Author: CHARLIE SHELDON
Publishers: Iron Twine Press, Washington, USA
Reviewer: Ikenna D. Ekwerike
Strong Heart, by Charlie Sheldon is a fiction constructed around an age-long conflict between science and native legends in the unsettled question of who first settled in North America after the last ice age. Now, while Tom and his friend William together with Myra, William’s daughter had concluded plans to visit Tom’s grandfather’s grave at Bear Valley deep inside the Olympic Peninsula by morning, they were taken aback, when Ruth, Tom’s ex-wife suddenly appears amidst a heavy rainstorm, unannounced, bearing a frail little girl, Sarah, whom she declared was Tom’s granddaughter and abandoned her there. Tom had no prior knowledge of Sarah’s existence and was caught between cancelling a much anticipated and crucial journey or bring Sarah along.
The choice became to take Sarah, a 12 or 13 year old mysterious and difficult girl along. Sarah shows great drawing skill by perfectly sketching a huge short-faced bear she was sure she had seen as she took a walk across the meadow whereas Myra claims the short-faced bear has been extinct thousands of years ago. Tom shows his friends an ancient atlatl whose origin is unknown and which he is returning to his grandfather’s grave even as Myra argues the artefact if dated, will help to stop an impending Buckhorn deal. Unfortunately, Sarah strangely disappears with the artefact only to reappear after eight days, badly wounded, shabby and later became unconscious. The atlatl is gone! Sarah tells her weird tale of encounter with the skin boat people and the razor stone people.
The most striking aspect of the book, for me, is its theme on climate through which the author systematically treated the impact of global warming on the environment as seen in the disappearance of the ice age as a result of the earth heating up. The book explains a possible cause of flooding and tsunamis where so much water is locked up in ocean ice but ocean levels rise when the water locked up in the ice is released as the ices melt. The narrative technique used in Strong Heart held me spellbound following the ability of the author to clearly evoke strong imageries that spurred me to wild imaginations. With each chapter containing not more than 4 to 9 pages, it was possible for me to read the book with much ease. This must have been a deliberate strategy to assure me that, at least, I was making some progress in the reading and to sustain my interest in the book. The humour in the character of Tom, especially when he spoke to William, added to the entertainment derivable from this book.
However, I think the book gave too much boring details of the journey and events in Sarah’s dreamland tale. Alternatively, rather than dedicate entire chapters 15 through 22, at a stretch, to the first part of Sarah’s story, the book should have avoided the monotony with interjections and reactions from the persons to whom the story was being told. The story continued again from chapter 37 to 41 in the same monotonous manner.
As a proof that I enjoyed Strong Heart, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. This is one book in which I have seen a perfect blend of legend and science around a controversial topic as origins. The story broadly explores ancestral relationships, affirming that humans have a common source. I greatly enjoyed how the character of Sarah developed: from a condemned, chaotic, and stubborn child whom Tom regretted came his way in the first place, to a heroine and creative personality he will later never want to miss. The author creatively related Sarah’s dreamland tales to the very mystery which Tom and his associates were trying hard to unravel. Thus, by analysing the twists and turns in her tale, Sergei was able to create logical relationships between what Sarah saw and the reality facing them. I would recommend this book to everyone who would love to witness a robust interaction between science and legends. People who enjoy items that challenge their imaginative resources would find the book a great read. As it were, this book may appeal less to people who are impatient with a lot of details.
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