4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart, written by Charlie Sheldon, is the story of Sarah's journey into the Olympic National Park, accompanied by her grandfather Tom and his friends William and Myra. Arriving unannounced at Tom's doorstep, he has no choice but to take her along on their iminent camping trip: the group wants to visit Tom's grandfather Bob-Bob's grave deep in the national park a last time before the proposed mining activities might change the park (and its history) forever. At the same time, Tom wants to return an ancient artifact to his grandfather's grave. But Sarah, the 13-year old orphan who did not want to come on this trip in the first place, goes missing for eight days and when she emerges in the middle of a thunderstorm, she tells the strangest tales of her adventures.
This novel is a masterful blend of fiction, science, mystery and Native American legends. Legends and the scientific data to (dis)prove them are interwoven so well that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from legend or fiction. Sometimes the storyline changed a bit abruptly and I had to re-read sections just to make sure that I did not skip a part. At the end, though, all the story lines came together and made perfect sense.
Most of the story is told either from Sarah's or William's perspective.The landscape comes alive on the pages and it felt as if I was trudging through the woods with William and rowing the canoes alongside Sarah. She is so convinced of her vision that I do not doubt what she experienced is real. The author describes her experiences in such vivid detail that it is easy to believe what you've read.
Otherwise, not much background is provided on the characters, but in this case it works really well and adds to the mysterious undertone of the story rather than detracting from it. The tit-bits of information thrown in seemingly randomly give you enough understanding -and appreciation- of each characters' good and bad traits.
I would rate this book 4 out of 4 stars, because it is a powerful story of a young girl who learns about her heritage and family. Although not explicitly stated, you can come to the conclusion that Sarah finds a home and that Tom has a chance to right previous wrongs. It is a book that keeps you thinking and wondering and researching, even when you put it down. The abrupt ending just adds to this and I can't wait to read more about Sarah, Tom, William and Myra and their quest to protect a wonderful, mysterious and very valuable history.
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