The Forest of Vanishing Stars
By Kristin Harmel
Publication Date: July 6
This wonderful book will be debuting in just TWO weeks! Make sure to order your copy or put it on hold at your local library asap! Here’s what I thought of this gem:
Unique and captivating. Harmel has delivered a WW2 tale unlike any other I’ve read. This is a story of survival in the most dire of situations- against both harsh elements and the harshest of enemies. It’s a story of human resilience and fighting against the odds.
What matters more: who you are born to be or who you become? This question plagues our main character. Yona, born Inge, was stolen away from affluent German parents to a meager life in the forest and taught to survive on what the forest alone provides.
Seeking any possibility of survival, a group of Polish Jews flee into the woods hoping to evade their oppressors and defy the odds. After living a solitary life, Yona stumbles upon this group and realizes fate has brought them together.
Yona is a character you root for. She is distinct and strong. She could kill a man with her bare hands, delicately care for a child lost from her parents, and feed starving strangers with fish she caught from the nearest stream. But her outer strengths are met with an inner struggle to determine who she is. As she teaches these Jews how to survive in the elements, they teach her to listen to her own heart and forge her own destiny.
Harmel’s depth of research, both of the history and forest, is obvious. While the characters in the story are completely fictitious, they are based upon the Belieski Camp in the Naliboki Forest. From the food they foraged to the necessary preparations for winter to the attacks they waged on German soldiers, the meticulous research of historic fact is evident.
However, at times this book felt a bit like a mix of historic fiction and fantasy. There are some quirky, mystical elements to the story, especially early on. And the way Yona approaches certain scenarios often requires the reader to suspend plausibility. In my opinion, with a historic basis as unique and dynamic as this plot is, no supernatural elements were needed and may have in fact detracted from the overall spectacular nature of this history.
Happy reading friends!