4 out of 4 stars
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A coming of age and evolution novel, Strong Heart by Charlie Sheldon is an extraordinary bridge between a Native Indian family’s fight to protect their heritage and the incentive challenge of an industrial world.
13 year old Sarah arrives at her Grandfather’s home in Sol Duc, Washington in the middle of a storm. A rebel of modern day society, the orphaned Sarah finds herself having to choose between juvenile detention and her mother’s parent’s separated by more than divorce. The sacred lands and beliefs of the Haida Tribe are being threatened by Buckhorn International, intent on securing mining rights and run by her Grandmother’s husband.
A pilgrimage to the high ridges of Olympic National Park to retrieve an ancient artifact and honor the burial ground of her Great, Great Grandfather becomes more than just a quest to prove and preserve the Tribe’s heritage. Mystic forces collide with man as Sarah experiences visions, is lost in a storm and returns with a story of being rescued by an ancient people who name her Strong Heart.
For readers who love fiction grounded in historical fact, they will find Strong Heart satisfies on both fronts. The author convincingly weaves the history of the family with the history of America as settlers came to the Pacific Northwest for logging and mining. Elevating the question of the evolution of Early Man with archaeology tracking the 12,000 year old migration of man crossing the Bering Straits to the New World. For a Russian genetic biologist and Sarah’s new found family, her visions and story take on new meaning about the evolution of North American Man. But is a vision ever just a vision or can a vision be real as spirits guide destiny?
I like this book for several reasons. In searching to find her place in the world, Sarah finds her place through her family and those came before her. Her path is expertly interwoven with the people and world of an ancient time. Ultimately, a campfire tale told against the backdrop of majestic mountains, rushing rivers and the forces of nature in the Great Pacific Northwest draw you in so that you can almost hear the campfire’s embers crackle as her words unfold. For older readers, the attention to technical and academic detail and historical fact is convincing. For adventure readers, there is enough action to not know where the story is going next. In the vein of Indiana Jones, every crusade leads to discovery, and there’s a map!
For all these reasons, I give Strong Heart a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
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