Title: The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Author: Kristin Harmel
Publication: July 6, 2021
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**
Having read The Book of Lost Names, I knew The Forest of Vanishing Stars was a must read for me by Kristin Harmel. She writes such fantastic historical fiction. World War II stories are always hard to read because of how terrible of a time it was for everyone, but even more so for those who were hunted like animals by the German’s and had to live through dire circumstances. Harmel has a way of writing that pain and tragedy where you feel it deep in your bones, but you fall in love with these characters and their strength.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars was very different from other stories of Jewish survival. I have read stories where people hide in houses, barnes, sewers, and more. But this is the first one I have heard where people had to learn to survive off the land and steer clear of German soldiers at the same time. If I am being honest, this story started out slow for me. I struggled for the first 20%. Not because it was boring, but because it just meandered along. I’m a person that needs things to focus on and interesting aspects to keep me connected. I struggled at first. But once I passed that 20% mark the book picked up and I have zero complaints.
There were a lot of characters in this book as groups of Jewish people fled into the forest. You met a lot along the way. I loved many. I disliked some. I even hated a few. I love when a book pulls out strong emotions regarding my feelings towards characters and this one did it. I was not a fan of Aleksander and found him emotionally abusive and taking advantage of Yona many times to a point where I was angry every time I had to read about him. I loved the children and how their characters brought the other characters joy in times when they were at their lowest. I love how Harmel gave descriptions of the characters, but not really in depth ones. I had my own images of each character in my mind, which likely would be different from others vision of them. It was just enough information to set the scene and then I was able to imagine the rest. A good author doesn’t have to overexplain. The reader is able to create a world out of the description given.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars may have started out slow for me, but quickly because a heart wrenching story of survival, family, personal growth and love. This is a must read for 2021. It might be a World War 2 story, but it’s so much more than that.
STAR RATING: 5/5
Pick up your new copy of The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or check your local bookstore. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished. You can check out more from author Kristin Harmel on her website HERE.