July 6, 2021
Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, WWII, Poland/Germany, Survival, Jewish
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My Summary of The Forest of Vanishing Stars:
“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 German 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 WWII, for those who love stories of strong, inspirational women, and for book clubs.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author of The Forest of Stars, 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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