4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart by Charlie Sheldon is a fiction novel in the adventure genre. It takes place in the picturesque landscapes of the Olympic Peninsula wilderness of Washington state and along the North Pacific coast. Embedded within the main plot is a second story that is a historical fiction.
The night before he is planning to leave on a camping trip deep into Olympic National Park, Tom Olsen gets an uninvited visitor at his door. It is his ex-wife Ruth and she has life-changing news for Tom. They have a 13-year-old granddaughter, Sarah. Ruth had just found out about her a few days before. Sarah has been sent by her stepfather to visit her deceased mother's family, She needs a home for the summer but Ruth refuses to keep her any longer. Sarah is too sullen and rebellious. She quickly introduces Tom to Sarah and leaves before he can protest.
Tom is at a loss as to what to do about the camping trip. He put a lot effort into planning this trip. He had asked his Native American friend William and William’s daughter Myra to join him on the trip. The timing was critical because a local developer had plans to start mining ore in the park. He had made this camping trip many years before with his grandfather. During the trip, his grandfather had passed away unexpectedly. Tom wanted to see the pristine landscape one last time and visit his grandfather’s grave. He also had other unfinished business he needed to take care of. Tom reluctantly decides to take Sarah with them on the trip.
Sarah resents being forced to go on the camping trip. She and Tom struggle to learn how to communicate. Tom is too focused on his main real reason for making this trip and not intuitive to Sarah’s needs. He does not notice that she is feeling rejected and unwanted. They have a big disagreement and Sarah storms off into the wilderness. She goes missing for eight days. Tom is heartbroken. He and William search to recover her body. Miraculously, she reappears out of the wilderness. She is badly injured and missing a finger. She tells them about the amazing adventure that she had while she was missing those eight days.
I selected this novel expecting it to be a coming of age story about Sarah. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more complex and intriguing this book really is. The novel is told through the perspective of William. The main protagonists are Sarah and Tom. However, the author has incorporated many interesting, smaller subplots involving the other supporting characters: William’s interaction with his headstrong daughter, Myra’s concern about her father’s failing health, the conflict between the land developers and the Native American residents of their small town, Sergei’s scientific theory versus Myra’s Native American beliefs. There are so many interesting layers to this novel. They are all expertly woven together and relevant to the main stories.
If I had any negative criticism about this book it would be how it ended. It is very abrupt. The rest of the book is well-paced and reads so easily. Then the book just stops in the middle of an adventure. However, based on how the stories have been layered, I am certain there will be additional novels involving these characters. Hopefully, the next book will resume where this one ends.
I would rate Strong Heart a 4 out of 4. The book appears professionally edited. I found no grammar or spelling errors. The characters of Tom, Sarah, William and Myra are all believable, well-developed and contribute greatly to the high quality of this novel. I was very impressed with the details that the author has incorporated into this book. The descriptions of the landscaping are incredible! I found myself researching the Olympic Park area just to see the scenery through my own eyes. There really is nothing really negative I can say about this book other than the ending leaving me wanting more. I would recommend this novel to readers that enjoy books about family relationships, adventure novels, and historical fiction.
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