4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart by Charlie Sheldon leads us on a multi-layered and exciting journey. The maps in the front of the book set the stage for the trip, and they were enhanced by an inviting dedication and quotations from T.S. Eliot and Carl Jung. I was ready for an adventure by the time I arrived at the beginning of Chapter One, and I was not disappointed.
The main characters are thirteen-year-old Sarah, her grandfather Tom, and his two friends from the reservation, Myra and her father Walleye. Sarah is toughened from being shuffled around in the system since her mother died, and Tom has just now found that Sarah exists.
This group heads into the Pacific Northwest wilderness to wrap up some unfinished business from Tom's childhood. Their camping trip turns out to be much more than they bargained for. Besides dealing with the rigorous challenges of hiking into the wilds. they encounter a surveying team that seems at odds with their purpose for going there. The trip is hard on the older men, especially Walleye, and Sarah does not want to be there. There are many twists and surprises along the way.
The discussion among the friends brings out controversy about legends vs. archeological data as well as ecology and land rights vs. industry. We get pulled into a detailed story of the life and survival struggles of the first humans in the area.
I enjoyed all the arguments and information the author shared about native legends, archeological findings, genetic and geological studies. He obviously is familiar and informed with his subject, which is confirmed by his background described at the back of the book.
The story also has a heart and explores many layers of relationships, not just between Tom and Sarah but also between Myra and her father, between Walleye and Tom, and between a father and son team of Russian scientists who figure into part of the story. All of the characters manage to grow and change as the story progresses.
The one fault I found with this book is the length of the tale of the ancient people. The story dropped into the middle of the action and went on for four or five chapters without a break, and I would have liked to have been taken back to the current action a couple times during the narrative. It also took me some time to become invested in the characters in this tale within a tale, possibly because it took a long time before getting to any dialogue among them.
Regardless of those flaws, the environment, struggles, and characters of the ancient people were fully imagined and I became invested in spite of myself.
This book could appeal to young people and an older crowd alike. If it were a movie, I would rate it PG-13, and I can well imagine this engaging adventure coming alive on the silver screen.
If I could give this a 3-1/2+ star rating I would, just because of the length of the tale I mentioned. Since that is not an option, I am giving this a rating of 4 out of 4 stars because I was engaged and satisfied, and that is all a person can ask for in a good book.
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