Books I Love! Kristen Harmel’s The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a Richly Researched, Inspiring Novel

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.

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 from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).

My Take

What a remarkable read! I was swept away from the start, into the heart of the forest, richly written with vivid details, and into the heart of Yona, our brave but innocent heroine. This is a World War II novel unlike any I’ve read, and was woven with the results of the author’s deep research, which only made the book more gripping.

Yona is kidnapped by a mysterious gypsy-like woman at age two and spends the next 20 years with her captor living deep in the forest, avoiding humanity, hunting and gathering their food, and venturing into nearby villages in the dark of night to take what they need. However, Yona’s captor, Jerusza, is a brilliant and worldly woman who teaches her everything she knows about the forest, the world, and survival. Far from the safety of their forest, war is raging across Europe and the Holocaust is in full throttle.

When Jerusza dies, Yona is left alone, but soon encounters a band of Jewish refugees, innocents in the wilderness, whom she realizes need her help, which she is driven to provide regardless of the danger to herself. With them she discovers, love, betrayal, and loss.

This is my first novel from this author; I will be reading more.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction with strong heroines, suspense, lush landscapes, and an inspiring ending.

About the Author

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, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE magazine while still in college and spent more than a decade working for the publication, covering everything from the Super Bowl to high-profile murders to celebrity interviews. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE, however, were the “Heroes Among Us” features–tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

In addition to a long magazine writing career (which also included articles published in Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and more), Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz and has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous local television morning shows.

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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