4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart is a two-fold adventure that entails mystery and the supernatural in one hand and history and nature on the other. Having taken many years to complete, it paints a vivid picture, through the first-hand experiences of the Washington-based author’s familiarity with the actual, natural geographical setting. It is, as one of the characters describes it, the “land of magic, history, and legend”.
Before dwelling into the story, I was first familiarized with the geography where the various events take place via maps detailing the islands, seas, and the land masses around the North Pacific Ocean. This helps a lot in capturing and following the movements within the story. Otherwise, it is mainly set in the expanse of the Olympic Park not far from Canada and Washington and begins in a quiet town called Sol Duc before all else. Further on into the book, the story also takes us on an eventful and action-packed sea adventure with the young heroine, Sarah Cooley on board whereby, the tale takes on an interesting and in depth first-person narrative (twice) as told by her whilst on a mystical (astral) journey into an unknown and forgotten past. It is during this part of the book that the title makes sense. Now, to get a hostile picture of differences herein; it is the constant clashing of scientific data versus pure belief; ancient legend versus archaeology/anthropology; mining and corporate greed versus naturalism and heritage preservation. All this is with regards to the past, present, and possible future concerning the land itself and the Native American Indians. An ancient artifact of controversy is the main catalyst in all of this.
On the scope of characters: we first meet the beautiful, well-educated Myra who is an anthropologist; and her humble father, William with his shamanic insights. Then, there’s Tom Olsen, the reason behind the expedition which concerns his side of the family, his long-deceased grandfather to be exact. He and William have been close friends and colleagues for many years as fishermen traveling the Pacific, and they are both elderly and divorced a good number of years as well. Sarah Cooley, the heroine is Tom’s grand-daughter of whom he meets for the first time, and is dumped with by his ex-wife. From there, the crew not having much of a choice, it was decided to bring her along for the trip, trekking the trail ways of the peninsula’s wilderness in all its glory and majestic splendor…
At first glance, thirteen-year-old Sarah comes across as a disturbed, troublesome youth who seems destined towards a life of wastage and failure. However, she is an exceptional sketch artist for her age, with a story to tell via her talent. As we get to know this special young lady, we see how contrary to this perception she actually is. The interesting thing about our young protagonist is seeing the transformation from being a stubborn, careless, uninterested, and irritable teen that she is in the beginning; to becoming a passionate, experienced adventurer with a strong resolve. She is the torch bearer who leads the way not only figuratively but, literally and scientifically as well despite a handful of drama and messed up situations she finds herself in.
It is interesting to note how Strong Heart effortlessly blends in well-researched information about the migrations and movements in the areas mentioned, of the prehistoric wildlife and the ancient people we today call the Native Americans. On that note, we get to absorb a chunk of information based on evidence. Being a lover of history and archaeology, I filled in a lot of gaps concerning the subject and did not know about such a majestic place such as the Olympic prior to the book. How it also manages to shine a light on the latter-day political and/or corporate factors on the issues when a company called Buckhorn (playing the antagonist) is introduced or mentioned together with its employees causing problems. On the less serious side of things, the humour here and there is not bad; and the simplicity of the language use is very considerate for basic readers to enjoy.
I tried looking for something negative about the book but, I failed. The only thing is just some parental guidance for the young ones because there’s a bit of strong language here and there, not much though. Merely because I think kids of all ages deserve to read it as much as it is enjoyable for adults. All in all, what I like the most about the book is how it is perfectly balanced in so many ways that, one reaps many lessons from it.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars - I mean, Charlie Sheldon is indeed a brilliant and versatile author with a seasoned hand. The story is inspiring and aids in self-reflection; it is well-articulated and able to accommodate the young and old. As for lovers of nature and the outdoors, history, and archaeology/anthropology they are in for a sure treat.
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