“This is a land of magic, history, and legend. A place of myth, ancient stories, ancient people.”
Charlie Sheldon’s Strong Heart is a unique and adventurous story about finding acceptance. Though we are reading a through a fiction/fantasy lens, we come to learn about and connect to the differing cultures in our physical world. I would categorize Strong Heart as a Young Adult novel that all genders can enjoy. However, I think young women, especially those looking to satisfy their independent spirit, would benefit most from adding this book to their reading list. [Trigger warning: discussion of domestic abuse is contained in this novel.]
On the Olympic Peninsula, the Haida Nation is struggling to preserve its collective history. However, it seems only Myra, William and Tom are willing to publicly challenge the disruption and possible destruction of ancient artifacts and land: until Sarah, William’s estranged granddaughter is dropped on their doorstep. Against their better judgment, they decide to take this disagreeable teen on a conservationist trek into the woods. Little do they know that Sarah’s personal journey will become the glue which holds together their community’s past, present, and future.
Sheldon sets an adventurous tone to the novel by beginning with a quote by Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” This works brilliantly alongside Sarah’s experience as she learns how to become one with her people. As she begins her trek through the woods her personality is not exactly admirable. She’s disrespectful to her family and insists on being miserable. However, her true colors breakthrough when she travels to The Place People Were. She transforms from a stubborn teen into a self-reliant young woman with a purpose. At the same time, learns how to work as part of a team, and how to cope with the pain of her past.
This point brings me to why I think young women should read Strong Heart. It was refreshing to follow the story of two differently-aged women who actually have personalities relatable to young women. Sarah is able to grow without losing her independent spirit. She reminds me of “Katniss Everdeen” because of her efforts to be heard and to remain strong through her journey. And the good news is- she has a great role model in her aunt, Myra. Myra is argumentative, but also kind. She is knowledgeable of her history and determined to share that knowledge with Sarah.
The only suggestion I have for this text would be to complete one more quick round of editing. There are a few sections with a lot of “back and forth” dialogue that could be quoted more clearly and 1 or 2 sentences missing a word; but otherwise, Strong Heart was a great read. I give it 3 out of 4 stars.