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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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  • Published:
    Jul 2021, 384 pages


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There are currently 26 reader reviews for The Forest of Vanishing Stars
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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.
Esther L. (Newtown, PA)

The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Jerusza, a mysterious old woman living alone in the forests of Eastern Europe,who followed the voices that echoed through them. "If one listened closely enough, nature always spilled her secrets, the secrets which were, of course, the secrets of God."

In June of 1920, she saw a shining above the treetops, beckoning her north to Berlin and a glowing baby. After 2 years of watching the baby, Jerusza finally steals her to live in the forest with her, naming her Yona for the dove birthmark behind her wrist. Jerusza dies at the age of 102 in 1941 and Yona is on her own.

Yona encounters a group of Jewish people hiding in the forest to escape the Nazis. The story continues with how they survive with the help of Yona's knowledge.

Beautifully written, well researched and inspired by incredible true stories. A great addition to my Holocaust library, which I highly recommend.
Power Reviewer
Freya H. (Phoenix, AZ)

The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Although this is just one of the multitude of books I've read about WWII over the years, it was one that will not soon be forgotten. The storyline is, as all stories about the Nazi regime are, sad, but so inspiring in that the protagonist is a true survivor. She is instrumental in helping a large group of Jews who are fleeing from the Nazi terror learn how to survive in the forest where she grew up, while they in turn help teach her to understand life outside her isolated existence. What strength and courage she had. That same strength and courage was also vividly portrayed as the group of Jewish men, women and children learned skills to ensure their survival. This is a remarkable story, a page turner, very well written. I would certainly recommend it.
Maureen M. (Springfield, OH)

Hidden Messages
I read this unique tale in just a few days and was eager to get home from work each day to continue reading it. It's a painful piece of historical fiction that reads like a fable and leads the reader to consider important questions about faith;the choices we make and the responsibilities of mankind.

After a childhood of near solitude, the protagonist, Yona, comes face to face with the evils of man and horrors of the Holocaust. Suspense, romance, and mystery unfold as Yona struggles to learn about life outside the forest and her place in it.

Yona was extraordinary. I rooted for her survival, her success to save others and her happiness.

Readers will undoubtedly join Yona's cheering club.

The story is told in such an interesting and unique way. Avid readers should read it for that reason alone. Kristen Harmel has made my list of favorite authors. I'm looking forward to her next book!
Phyllis B. (St. Louis, MO)

The Forest of Vanishing Stars
Being a novice at writing a book review, I feel fortunate to review a book by an author whose works I have read and enjoy. Kristin Harmel's, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, is an historical fiction account of World War II in Poland. The story starts with a baby girl being kidnapped and taken into the forest. She grows up learning forest survival from the old woman. Left alone after the old woman dies, the girl learns why she was taken and how she can help the Jewish people escape the Nazi terrors.

The author's characters express deep emotions as they face many conflicts between good and evil, death and healing, love and hate. I was emotionally drawn into their lives. The writing is filled with creative descriptions and the story flows smoothly. A difficult period in history is covered with truth, insight and compassion. Treat yourself to a beautifully written book.
Kimberly H. (Stamford, CT)

Another WWII book.....
A hard to put down story based on facts about the underground resistance in Poland. I wish I had read the afterword first- I had no idea how much of the novel was based on fact as I was reading it. The bravery of these folks is astounding - a well written, sometimes very emotional book. Worth the read.

Beyond the Book:
  The Bielski Partisans

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