4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart is a story within a story. The main story is fiction, while the second one might be classified as fantasy. Most of the main story takes place in the rugged wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula, with much of the action occurring in the Olympia National Park.
The story begins in Sol Duc, Washington, with Tom and his friends, William and Myra. The three are about to set out on an expedition to revisit the burial site of Tom’s grandfather. Just as they are about to leave, Tom’s ex-wife Ruth shows up with a young girl in tow. Ruth explains that the girl, Sarah, is their granddaughter, whose existence only became known to Ruth five days ago. Ruth insists that Tom take Sarah, a sullen and uncommunicative child with a pierced nose and an attitude. After Ruth leaves, William suggests that Sarah come with them on their journey, and Tom reluctantly agrees.
What happens on the journey is the central element of this enthralling story. After reaching Tom’s grandfather’s grave, an argument ensues. Sarah walks off in an angry huff and disappears for eight days. While she is missing, she experiences another life, pre-historic, primal and dangerous. When she is found at the end of the eight days, she tells her story. The others don’t know what to believe. Was it a vision, or a past-life experience? No one can say, but Sarah insists it happened. Later, she is able to use knowledge that she gained from this experience to help escape a life-threatening weather condition in the park.
Subplots involving the guardianship of Sarah, the use of public lands for private enterprise and what happened to Sarah’s mother also make up the story. William and his daughter Myra, Native Americans of the Haida tribe, explain some of the teachings and beliefs of their tribe, and the conflict between oral history and scientific data is explored.
The author did a superb job of describing the great outdoors and the magnificence of the mountains, ice-caps and streams. If I wanted a good look at what I would need if I were to camp in this area, I wouldn't need to look much further than this book. I also enjoyed the presentation of the area in terms of its geophysical history - how mountains, valleys, waterways were formed through the various ice ages. Getting a glimpse of the pre-historic short face bear, and the different types of mastodon was an added bonus. The depiction of other animals found in the region was also enlightening.
I really enjoyed this book. It was well-written, engaging, and informative. The dialogue flowed nicely and was believable. The pace was just right. When the secondary story began I was a little disappointed with the divergence from the main story. Then I didn’t want to go back to the main story because the second story was so exciting.
This story would appeal to anyone who likes a good adventure, along with those who are interested in philosophy, theology, archeology, and/or anthropology. I saw no editorial errors. So I am happily giving this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
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