4 out of 4 stars
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Strong Heart definitely lives up to its name. This book is really two separate stories going on at the same time, and while both were interesting for comparison and parallels, I enjoyed Strong Heart’s story more.
In essence, the story is about Sarah, a 13-year-old troubled youth who connects with her grandparents after her step-dad sends her away. Her mother is deceased, and upon meeting her maternal grandmother, is then shuffled off to her maternal grandfather who ends up taking her with him on a spiritual hike to put his grandfather’s spirit to rest in the mountains. The book is set in the mountains and ultimately deals with the plight and story of the native people. The core characters are Tom, the grandfather, Sarah, his grandchild, and William and Myra, a father-daughter combo. The “villain” of the book is a corporation who is trying to get rights to certain aspects of the land to build a corporate center and thus upsetting a lot of the native people in the area who have ties to the land, live and work in the area and so forth. When Tom reveals an artifact, he found not far from where his grandfather is buried, it becomes a hot topic. The artifact was taken, which is illegal, but if brought to light could turn the villainous corporation away, stalling production because it would make the area a historical archeological site. Furthermore, dating the artifact could prove that people were here long before history tells us. This is the heart of the story, and ties both Sarah’s world and Strong Heart’s world together.
Sarah goes missing in the mountains, and only when we reconnect with her she tells us the story of Strong Heart as if she lived it. This was never really explained, but hinted that what Sarah had was a “vision.” I choose to fall in line with the idea that Sarah was possessed by Strong Heart’s spirit, but that’s just me and you can read it however you like. Strong Heart tells a story of suffrage as we follow her abduction with other native women. They were found and shuttled by other native people because of the dwindling population and number of women available for wives. The journey is hard, scary, and beautiful at the same time. This was the highlight of the book for me. The way in which Sheldon speaks as Strong Heart, the description of people, animals, environment and so forth feels very genuine and well-crafted from a historical context. Strong Heart’s story is meant to suggest the existence of people have been around since forever and juxtaposing that with the present world in which Sarah, Tom and the other characters are fighting the current corporate battle is a nice way of connecting all the threads.
I found myself much more interested in Strong Heart’s story, with the people she was surrounded by. I would have been very interested to follow her story with them until her natural end, her complete life, rather than have her story kind of just end where it did. I couldn’t really find anything I disliked about this book, aside from the ending. I wanted to keep reading! I would give this book a solid 4 out of 4 stars. I could not give it 3, just because overall I couldn't find anything I disliked, aside from wanting to hear more of Strong Heart's story. It is different but entertaining and rich in detail. I would recommend it to those who may be into historical fiction, or just fiction in general. At the core, it is a story about people, and how we endure and how we have changed, as well as how we have not.
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