The Forest of Vanishing Stars Summary and Reviews

The Forest of Vanishing Stars

A Novel

by Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel X
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jul 6, 2021
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

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).

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Media Reviews

"Fascinating, meticulously researched and utterly unique, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-racing and heart-wrenching tale of survival against almost impossible odds during WW2. Kristin Harmel is an extraordinary storyteller and this book is another stunning example of her remarkable ability to bring characters to life." – Kelly Rimmer, New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan

"In this always compelling, sometimes harrowing tale, The Forest of Vanishing Stars draws readers into a singular story of survival and bravery. Set against the backdrop of Eastern Europe during World War II, the resourceful Yona, forced to become expert in the ways of the forest when a sage, prescient elderly woman takes Yona from her German family, must decide whether she'll rise up to claim the destiny foretold about her when faced with a band of Jewish refugees hiding in her beloved woods. Inspiring and gripping." – Marie Benedict, New York Times bestsellng author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

"Kristin Harmel is a master at spectacularly immersive historical fiction. The Forest of Vanishing Stars adeptly invites us into the dense and foreboding forests of Poland where groups of Jewish families hide to survive the horrors of WWII. Kidnapped as a toddler by a wizened-woman, a young girl, Yona guides us through this extraordinary novel with both her untamed naivety and her hard-won wisdom. The old woman has prepared Yona for these days of war, and Yona must decide if she will step into her destiny. A tale of family, of identity and of becoming who we are meant to be through both the darkness and the light. From the stunning opening to the soul-mending conclusion, The Forest of Vanishing Stars faces head on the questions of fate and free-will entwined like the forest's vines. With immaculate and in-depth research, Harmel reveals the profound secrets of the forest and unveils the whispers of nature that both challenge and save her intimately drawn characters. Harmel reminds us that we are part of something so much larger than ourselves. With stunning lines you will want to savor and share, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a powerful and compelling masterpiece, a significant story for our present time." – Patti Callahan, NYT Bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Surviving Savannah.

"The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a riveting story of a Jewish encampment hidden from Nazis by the shelter of thick forests that would ultimately be their salvation. Kristin Harmel's deeply affecting tale of survival and love begs the questions of the true definition of family, and also who we become as people in the face of danger—courageous or cowardly, a revenge-seeker or one who can forgive? With breathtaking natural descriptions, vivid historical details, and a brave heroine worth cheering for who must fulfill a destiny prophesied since birth, this novel is not to be missed!" – Heather Webb, USA Today bestselling author of The Next Ship Home

This information about The Forest of Vanishing Stars shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Cheryl P. (Lebanon, PA)

The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Applause to Kristin Harmel this is one book that is extremely difficult to put down after reading the first page. I loved how she brought the characters in the story together to fight for survival amongst enemies around every corner. I believe this book would be a great selection for a book club, so many thoughts and opinions can be generated from this book. Very well written, transported you to a different time of hate and violence where acts of kindness were extremely difficult to find.

Laurette A. (Rome, NY)

Home is not a place, but the people you choose to love.
Inspired by true stories, this extraordinary novel draws you in from the very first page. Yona is a young woman who uses her survival skills to help those fleeing from the Nazi invasion of Poland. How she does that and the ensuing results are the focus of the novel. I believe "The Forest of Vanishing Stars" will appeal to history fans, book clubs and anyone who likes suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Colleen L. (Casco, ME)

Totally Riveting
"The Book of Vanishing Stars" is a captivating read. The book is about a young girl, Yona, who was kidnapped when she was a baby and raised by her kidnapper in the forest. Yona is taught everything she needs to live there and stay hidden. This skill becomes immensely important to the Jews who hide in the forest during World War II. Yona teaches her skills to the Jews who escape to the forest for safety.

Kristin Hamel did an amazing job researching the true circumstances of the Jewish people who did hide out in the forest during World War II. I knew that this happened but there is little literature about this particular event. Reading more about this added to my Holocaust knowledge. The book is beautifully written and Yona is a character that you will absolutely adore. From page one to the ending, the book hooks you. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down.

I have nothing but praise for this book. It took me a while to start it (I was involved in a gigantic novel) but once I opened the first page, I was transported to Yona's world. I LOVE Harmel's writing. It is beautiful, lush, and so engaging that you want to race along to see what happens. That would be a mistake, however, as the writing is eloquent and gripping.

I do hope someone decides to make this into a movie because it would be definitely a great addition to the Holocaust genre and tells a story seldom mentioned. I commend Kristin Hamel for a wonderful book. She has written a novel as compelling as Kristin Hannah's Nightingale and I predict it will be a huge success.

Ellie B. (Mount Airy, MD)

Another outstanding historical novel by Kristin Harmel
Lovers of historical fiction with a mystical twist will enjoy this thought-provoking novel. The heroine, who is groomed for leadership, struggles with her identity, and questions her role in life as many do. The struggle to make the 'right' choice profoundly affects her relationship with her father. Her skills and dedication guide her as she leads a band of Jewish refugees during World War Two. The resilience of that oppressed group is remarkably developed in this engaging novel. Her actions reflect the Talmud: "Whoever saves a life it is considered as if he saved an entire world." Upon re-reading, the allegory represented in the story line became very interesting to me. I highly recommend this novel for book club discussion.

Rosemary S. (Somers, NY)

A Very Different Setting for WWII Historical Fiction
This book is based on true stories of survival in the forests of Eastern Europe during WWII. I have read many books that take place during this era but I never heard about some of the Jews escaping the ghettos and fleeing into the surrounding wilderness.

The amount of research and knowledge the author gave about the subject made quite an impression on me and helped make the book very believable. Kristin Harmel knows how to keep the reader interested by mixing love, betrayal, murder, survival, and so much more throughout the pages. I was extremely interested in all the survival skills that each character in her book had to learn. The main character, Yona, had only nature at her disposal most of the time, so the author needed to learn the plants, mushrooms, and berries that were not only edible but could provide medicinal benefits as well. How can anyone build a shelter and have enough food to survive the harsh Winter? The details were very descriptive and I did learn quite a bit.

There were heroes and there were cowards. Human nature at its worst and at its best. There were moments and descriptions in the book that were hard to read, but without them the book wouldn't seem real. The atrocities were real.

Several times the author made the characters see that there would and could be moments of joy in their futures despite their horrific memories and pain. Her characters did believe it imperative that the Jewish faith survive and their stories must be told to future generations. I found that to be a very necessary and important message.

I recommend this book for book clubs and readers that seek out historical fiction. This book is very different from the other WWII novels I have read before. The setting was unique and I'm surprised, almost ashamed, that it never occurred to me that of course there would be thousands driven into the forests.
This book gave so much information, and was so well written it kept me up at night waiting to see if somehow, some way, these women, children, and men could somehow overcome all the odds.

Susan H. (Mount Kisco, NY)

Couldn't put it down
Harmel writes a well-researched book with amazing detail for her characters and the period. I have had many a sleepless night reading her other books, and this one was no different. Once you start - the characters are your people, and you don't want to leave them - sleep later.

...15 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Kristin Harmel Author Biography

Photo: Phil Art Studio, Reims, France

Kristin grew up in Peabody, Mass.; Worthington, Ohio; and St. Petersburg, Fla., and she graduated with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida. After spending time living in Paris, she now lives in Orlando, Fla., with her husband and young son.

Kristin Harmel is the international bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amélie and The Sweetness of Forgetting, along with several other novels. Her work has been featured in People, Woman's Day, Men's Health, Runner's World, and Ladies' Home Journal, among many other media outlets.

Author Interview
Link to Kristin Harmel's Website

Other books by Kristin Harmel at BookBrowse
  • The Winemaker's Wife jacket
  • The Book of Lost Names jacket
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