July 6, 2021
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, WW11, Poland/Germany, Survival, Jewish
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
“You are a warrior. You are a hero, and a fighter, and a savior. You are a caretaker and a life giver.”
Thanks #NetGalley @GalleryBooks for a complimentary eARC of #TheForestOfVanishingStars upon my request. All opinions are my own.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars is inspired by true stories of survival in the expansive forests of Poland during WW11. The movie Defiance with Daniel Craig depicts one of the largest hidden groups.
Yona is stolen from her wealthy Germany parents when she is two years old (1922) and raised in the wilderness by an elderly eccentric herbalist and visionary. In 1941 when Yona is a young woman, her kidnapper dies and she is left to fend for herself in the forest. She is surprised to stumble upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis. After her fear subsides, she is determined to teach the group all she knows about surviving in the forest. However, they teach her about community and friendship after living her life in isolation. Told in one straightforward timeline from one perspective, this is a story of found family, finding people to trust, and of survival.
Genre: The beginning of The Forest of Vanishing Stars includes some magical realism/mysticism that I wasn’t sure would work for me…..it felt like reading folklore rather than histfic. However, when the old woman/kidnapper dies, the story settles comfortably in the genre of realistic historical fiction. Every time I pick up a WW11 histfic, I am amazed and intrigued by the myriad of perspectives from which the story of this atrocious war can be told. Kristin Harmel is an extraordinary story teller!
Character: Strong and resilient, Yona is a complicated character and survivalist. At times, she reminds me of Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing. As she overcomes her shyness around people, Yona becomes a strong and wise leader and saves many lives.
“…In the times of greatest darkness, the light always shines through because there are people who stand up to do brave, decent things.”
Themes: Strong themes in The Forest of Vanishing Stars include wilderness survival, helping others, compassion, leadership, disappointment, found family, building trust, empathy, kindness, working together, and perseverance.
“Humans had a responsibility to do more than just protect themselves. In the face of evil, they were compelled to save each other.”
Content Considerations: WW11 hardships and atrocities, isolation, survival, death, grief
Recommended: I’m enthusiastically recommending The Forest of Vanishing Stars for fans of histfic (with a side of mysticism and romance), for readers who are especially interested in WW11, for those who love stories of strong, inspirational women, and for book clubs.
Related: Other stories by Kristin Harmel that I have reviewed: The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
The Forest of Vanishing Stars Information Here
Meet the Author, Kristin Harmel
Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amelie, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into 28 languages and sold all over the world.
A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, her favorite stories were the “Heroes Among Us” features—tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is the co-founder and co-host of the popular web series and podcast FRIENDS & FICTION.
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I’m glad that I have a trusted source to pick through the immense amount of WW2 fiction out there😂 lovely review
Thanks Athena! So many WW11 books!
I’ve heard so many good things about this book. It is on my TBR. Great review!
Thanks! Hope you enjoy it! 🙌
Yeah… but… no thanks. I do not like the premise of this book at all. Sorry!
That’s ok Davida! It’s so important to know our tastes/preferences.
I lost interest in the book with the magic realism. Many years ago I read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Not only did it win the Man Booker Prize, but it received the best all-time prize winner in 2003. The premise looked great so I bought the book. I absolutely hated it because of the magic realism. The last quarter was so weird that it was a real effort to finish. I don’t mind a fantasy book, but something in between fantasy and reality isn’t my cup of tea.
I agree….give me fantasy or reality but not both! 😂 fortunately the magical realism was most prevalent in the beginning of this book otherwise it might have been a DNF
Magical elements throw me off in HF, and I’m curious about the kidnapping and how that plays into story. Interesting!
It really confused me at first when this started off with fairy tale vibes!
Wonderful review Carol. I waffle with magical realism, so thanks for that information that it is just at the beginning. I enjoy Kristen Hamel’s writing, so am sure I will enjoy this one when I get a chance to read it. I agree, it is amazing who many perspectives and stories there are dealing with WWII.
Thanks Carla! I was definitely uncertain at first!
I am not found of magical realism in general. The idea of magical realism in a historical fiction novel feels wildly out of place.
Thankfully it was just at the beginning! It definitely had me worried!
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