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The Forest of Vanishing Stars

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The New York Times bestselling author of the 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 e The New York Times bestselling author of the 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.


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The New York Times bestselling author of the 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 e The New York Times bestselling author of the 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.

30 review for The Forest of Vanishing Stars

  1. 5 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel In 1922, an eighty two year old woman steals a two year old baby girl from the home of her wealthy German parents. For the next twenty years the old woman raises the girl, teaching her everything about nature and how to live without the help of anyone else. She schools the girl with stolen books, instructs her so that she is fluent in many languages, gives the girl everything she needs to be self sufficient. And then the old lady dies.  In 1941, Yona The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel In 1922, an eighty two year old woman steals a two year old baby girl from the home of her wealthy German parents. For the next twenty years the old woman raises the girl, teaching her everything about nature and how to live without the help of anyone else. She schools the girl with stolen books, instructs her so that she is fluent in many languages, gives the girl everything she needs to be self sufficient. And then the old lady dies.  In 1941, Yona, lonely, on her own, comes across Jews fleeing from those who have killed their families and friends and she helps them. Then she helps a bigger group and she knows that this must be her fate, why she she was stolen from her parents, so that she can help those who need help to survive in the woods that she knows so well. There comes a time when she flees these people, only to find them again. She has always wondered about her past, the face of her father that she sees in her mind. Finding her past helps her to know where she really belongs, although her past could obliterate her future.  There is a mystical quality to this book but as I read the Author's Note at the end and learned the extensive research she did and the real life events and stories that she drew from, I have no doubt that faith in God, the desire to not only survive but to help others survive, and the resilience of people that have nothing left to lose but their last breath, can make miracles happen. So many millions died but there are people who lived to tell the horrors of this time, in the hope of stemming cruelty to fellow man. Every time I read a story such as this one, as hard as it is to know what happened, I want to remember the people who lost their families, friends, and lives.  Publication: July 6, 2021 Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    I have read a lot of WW2 books and had taken a break from them for a while. This novel, however, sounded unique and it definitely was!! Set in the vast forests of Poland, I learned about Jews who were able to survive the German genocide by escaping and surviving in the wilderness. The novel starts with the kidnapping of a 2 y/o girl from a wealthy German household. This kidnapping however is not meant to harm the child but to keep her safe and on the path she was destined to take. An old woman, I have read a lot of WW2 books and had taken a break from them for a while. This novel, however, sounded unique and it definitely was!! Set in the vast forests of Poland, I learned about Jews who were able to survive the German genocide by escaping and surviving in the wilderness. The novel starts with the kidnapping of a 2 y/o girl from a wealthy German household. This kidnapping however is not meant to harm the child but to keep her safe and on the path she was destined to take. An old woman, Jerusza, who lives in the woods has been “seeing things” and “hearing voices” that tell her that Yona is meant for a higher purpose. She will be known by the birthmark shaped like a dove on her wrist. She was raised in the forest and taught many things including all that the forest has to offer in the way of food, medicinal herbs, ways to make a shelter, etc. She is taught how to hunt and cook, she holds A MAP OF THE FOREST IN HER MIND, She is also taught many languages and religions. Jerusza has always taught her that she must stay in the forest and away from other people, THE FOREST WILL ALWAYS PROTECT YOU. I really loved the author’s descriptive writing so that I could visualize the setting! Yona has had no contact with any other people until Jerusza dies when Yona is a young woman. Left alone, she wanders the forest until she meets a group of Jewish people escaping the ghettos. As she befriends them, Yona feels that she must teach them all that she knows or they will never survive. Midway through the novel Yona leaves the group in search of her father, whom she sees in brief dreams or thoughts. When she finds him, however, she knows for certain that she is meant to live in the forest and not with her German father who is a Nazi. She learns of the Germans plan to infiltrate the forest in search of the groups of Jews who escaped and needs to warn her friends. There is much to learn in this book and it is heartbreaking to read. Once again I was shown and told about all of the horrible things that were done to the Jewish people under Hitler. In the author’s notes there is a wealth of information about who and what the author based her novel on and it is extensively researched and based on real events. I liked the beginning of the novel with the element of magic realism or folklore and wished that some of that theme would have continued throughout the novel but it was very subtle. There were so many verses that I wanted to include but I will leave you with this. Zus’s lovely words to Yona “We all come into this world with our fates unwritten Yona. Your identity isn’t determined by your birth. All that matters is what we make ourselves into, what we choose to do with our life”. I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS is set to publish on July 6, 2021

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    4.5 rounded to 5 stars I have not read many WWII historical fiction novels in the last several months, having binged on them over the previous couple of years. I am still interested in books set during this time period, but with the caveat that I want to learn new things from each of them. For this reason, I am looking for those that come at the reader from unique vantage points. I found such a book in this stunning piece of work by Kristin Harmel. Our protagonist is Yona, a young woman who is st 4.5 rounded to 5 stars I have not read many WWII historical fiction novels in the last several months, having binged on them over the previous couple of years. I am still interested in books set during this time period, but with the caveat that I want to learn new things from each of them. For this reason, I am looking for those that come at the reader from unique vantage points. I found such a book in this stunning piece of work by Kristin Harmel. Our protagonist is Yona, a young woman who is stolen from her Berlin home at age two by an old woman (Jerusza) who lives in the woods. Jerusza “sees things” and feels “she is saving” Yona from a terrible future disaster by abducting her. Yona is taught everything about surviving in the woods and remains in the forest even after Jerusza dies. In the spring of 1942, Yona has her first of many encounters with Polish Jews who have fled into the forest to escape the Nazis. She finds she can teach them the ways of the forest and how they can try to survive under its cover. I really appreciated the fact that as the war rages in the background, this story focuses on Yona and the people she meets desperately fighting for their lives. The concept of the story is based on true events as detailed in the wonderful Author’s Notes at the end; make sure you read those. Ms. Harmel clearly did her research, including interviewing a 93-year-old survivor who lived in one of the forest’s largest groups. It was fascinating to learn how much the forest has to offer, allowing human beings to survive for years out in the elements. There is also much depth in the personal interactions of the characters. Yona’s life with Jerusza, the only person she had any contact with for two decades, did not include love, and I really enjoyed seeing Yona learn about human relationships from the refugees. The story also holds a good measure of suspense and impending loss, which enhances the read and allows the story to flow. Also contributing to the flow is the single timeline, something not often seen in historical novels set during a war. I found it tough to pull myself away whenever real life intervened and made me put the book down. Overall, I found this to be a unique story, a very inspiring, almost spiritual tale. I learned so much and was rewarded with “all the feels.” I will likely remember this one for a long time. I strongly recommend it to all readers of historical fiction, including those who are tired of novels set during WWII. A special shout out to my Goodreads friend Authenikate for bringing this book to my attention. I want to thank Net Galley, Gallery Books, and Ms. Kristin Harmel for an advanced copy. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I’m almost always deeply moved by Holocaust stories, but that depth was deflected at first in this novel, by some magical realism, a fairytale like quality and too much focus on romance . The last part of the novel, the author’s note and her diligent research, though, made it meaningful in the end. The imperative message of resilience and remembering is clearly reflected. “I don’t want to disappear. I want to survive so we can tell the world what has happened.” I read this with my book buds Dian I’m almost always deeply moved by Holocaust stories, but that depth was deflected at first in this novel, by some magical realism, a fairytale like quality and too much focus on romance . The last part of the novel, the author’s note and her diligent research, though, made it meaningful in the end. The imperative message of resilience and remembering is clearly reflected. “I don’t want to disappear. I want to survive so we can tell the world what has happened.” I read this with my book buds Diane and Esil . I received a copy of this book from Gallery through NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Historical Fiction that takes place during WWII. I have to say the start of this book was super weird, and I have to say I really did not like the beginning of this book. I liked the middle. The ending was everything, and I loved the ending so much. The ending will touch your heart. There was some really great parts of this book. I have to say the Author as away with words, and I love the writing in this book. I really love Yona's character, but on the other hand I wanted more for the This is a Historical Fiction that takes place during WWII. I have to say the start of this book was super weird, and I have to say I really did not like the beginning of this book. I liked the middle. The ending was everything, and I loved the ending so much. The ending will touch your heart. There was some really great parts of this book. I have to say the Author as away with words, and I love the writing in this book. I really love Yona's character, but on the other hand I wanted more for the Jerusza's character. There is a lot of characters in this book, but we only are told the story from Yona's point of view. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Gallery Books) or author (Kristin Harmel) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    "We all came from comfortable lives in the villages outside the forest. We were tailors and bookkeepers, shop owners and students. None of us could have imagined a day that our homes would be gone, and we’d be running for our lives into the depths of a forest we don’t know at all.” This is the first book I've read by Kristin Harmel, although she's got a few well-known titles under her belt, including The Book of Lost Names published last year. Harmel has a background in journalism, writing for P "We all came from comfortable lives in the villages outside the forest. We were tailors and bookkeepers, shop owners and students. None of us could have imagined a day that our homes would be gone, and we’d be running for our lives into the depths of a forest we don’t know at all.” This is the first book I've read by Kristin Harmel, although she's got a few well-known titles under her belt, including The Book of Lost Names published last year. Harmel has a background in journalism, writing for PEOPLE magazine and others. This could account for a somewhat breezy writing style that just sweeps the reader along. I was engaged from the very first words of this novel, captivated by events and the characters the author conjured in my mind's eye. I love lyrical and highfalutin language that sports poetic imagery, but I'm gaining an appreciation for the simply told tale, and that is what I would call Harmel's prose style. Not lacking in beauty, still, it does make the reader appreciate the metaphor when it eventually arrives. Yona grows up under the tutelage of Jerusza, an old woman who has as her major goal in life the education of her student. Yona learns how to forage, what roots and herbs are medicinal and how they are used, how to build shelters both above and below ground, and all the ways to protect herself from harm, all the ways of survival, how to kill with the flat of the hand and where to strike the most vulnerable parts of the body. Yona becomes a forest girl, well acquainted with its ways and unafraid of its mysteries, but when it comes to people, although she speaks several languages and knows the depths of religious teachings, she does not understand the language of love, family, belonging, community. As Yona comes into maturity, Jews fleeing the persecution of Nazis, during World War Two, enter the Naliboki Forest. Yona feels 'a calling' to reach out to them and teach them how to survive in the woods. Imagine how disturbing it is for Yona to learn that humans are actually hunting other humans in the forest. Especially poignant are the children. The interactions of the characters with Yona are insightful and revealing. Many have already lost entire families in the ghettos and are near broken by their ordeals. There is an underlying theme of predestination versus choice. How much of our lives is destiny and how much is choice? Can we choose how to react when bad things happen? Yona reminds me in a small way of Rima, William H. Hudson's bird-girl in Green Mansions. Both are mysterious and know the secrets of the forest. Like Rima, Yona has a sixth sense. Impinging civilization will change both their courses irrevocably. And like Hudson, Harmel made this reader comfortable in the forest she invoked, a place of danger, but also of life. One of Harmel's gifts to the reader is the authenticity she brings to this narrative, and I attribute this to the books she researched (which she lists in her author's note). An engaging read that complimented the theme of rewilding in the book I last read, Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Dus zent ir Yona was two years old when she was taken from her Berlin home by an 82-year-old woman named Jerusza. The woman claimed she was saving Yona from her 'bad' parents. The woman teaches Yona how to live off the land, to survive and endure. When Jerusza dies in 1941, Yona believes she will be alone forever. When she finds a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis, she is stunned to hear what is happening in the world. She has been raised to not trust, to avoid people, to live and to stay safe. Ye Dus zent ir Yona was two years old when she was taken from her Berlin home by an 82-year-old woman named Jerusza. The woman claimed she was saving Yona from her 'bad' parents. The woman teaches Yona how to live off the land, to survive and endure. When Jerusza dies in 1941, Yona believes she will be alone forever. When she finds a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis, she is stunned to hear what is happening in the world. She has been raised to not trust, to avoid people, to live and to stay safe. Yet, Yona decides to help them. They do not have the skills to survive in the wild, she is determined to teach them and in return, they become her family. Reeling from a betrayal, Yona ventures into a nearby German occupied village and her past collides with her present in devastating ways. "In the times of greatest darkness, the light always shines through, because there are people who stand up to do brave, decent things." I shared in other reviews that I have a family member who was in Auschwitz. So many aspects of this book resonated with me - surviving against all odds, the beauty and strength in people, the cruelty in others, grief, loss, survivors’ guilt and the desire to live, to give and to love. Ma was the strongest woman I ever knew. She had PTSD and tremendous survivor's guilt. Yet she had a strength inside her that was unparalleled. "-home is not a place, but the people you choose to love." The characters in this book had incredible strength as well. How do you survive the unthinkable? Yona was a unique character and I enjoyed watching her grow, learn and find her way. To learn the meaning of family and what it felt to be a part of one. Jerusza was a gem. I was hoping for more of her, for more of her backstory. Yes, she was a kidnapper, but she was also a tough lady and I instantly was captivated by her character. I also enjoyed how she 'knew' or 'sensed' things'. I enjoyed the magical realism part of the book, it really added to the story for me. I found this book to be beautifully written and moving. It evokes emotion and has several tense moments. I was engrossed in the story and went back and re-read several passages and found myself highlighting sections which spoke to me. The Author's note at the end should be mandatory. It in moving. Harmel shares the research she did in writing this book, the people she spoke to, and her inspiration for writing it. Riveting, Emotional and Engrossing. A MUST read! ***Inspired by true stories of survival. Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own. Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    4.5 stars out of 5! Kristin Harmel has succeeded again in writing an unforgettable and gripping historical fiction novel. The Forest of Vanishing Stars explored an aspect of World War II survival that few had ever explored in such detail and complexity. Kristin Harmel delved into the details of the lives, survival tactics, bravery and hope Jewish men, women, and children faced in the safety of the forests after successfully escaping from the confines of the ghettos where they were being held. Th 4.5 stars out of 5! Kristin Harmel has succeeded again in writing an unforgettable and gripping historical fiction novel. The Forest of Vanishing Stars explored an aspect of World War II survival that few had ever explored in such detail and complexity. Kristin Harmel delved into the details of the lives, survival tactics, bravery and hope Jewish men, women, and children faced in the safety of the forests after successfully escaping from the confines of the ghettos where they were being held. The Forest of Vanishing Stars was based on true events. At the end of this incredible novel, Kristin Harmel, shared details in her note portion of the book, about her interviews with survivors and the existence of many of the places she mentioned in The Forest of Vanishing Stars as well as the events that actually occurred. I listened to the audiobook of The Forest of Vanishing Stars that was expertly narrated by Madeleine Maby. It was meticulously researched and Kristin Harmel’s talent for excellent storytelling shone throughout. Kristin Harmel admitted that the idea for this book was based on the movie, Defiance. The characters were unforgettable and I still find myself thinking about them especially the strong female protagonist, Yona. I was drawn into the intriguing plot from the start and found that I could not stop listening to this harrowing story. There once existed a baby girl who lived in Berlin, Germany. She was the daughter of wealthy parents. One night, while her parents slept, she was kidnapped by an old woman who took her far from her home to live with her in the forests of Eastern Europe. The old woman named her Yona and she became her teacher and the person who took care of her. Yona learned how to survive in the forest by following the old woman’s advice and lessons. She learned which foods like berries and mushrooms were edible and not poisonous. Yona learned how to hunt, fish, protect herself from wild animals or evil men and how to build shelters that would hold up against the elements of winter and storms. She lived a very sheltered and isolated life though. When Yona grew older she became curious why the old woman had taken her from parents. The old woman told Yona that this was her destiny and that her parents were bad people. Then in 1941, Yona’s kidnapper died. She was beyond one hundred years old. Yona was alone for the first time in her life. It was at this juncture in Yona’s life that she discovered two men trying to fish in the forest. The men told Yona about their escape from the ghetto where they had been living. Eventually, Yona taught the young men how to fish and catch large number of fish in a short time. Yona realized that they were Jews that escaped the persecution of the Nazis. Having had no contact with the outside world all the time she lived with her kidnapper, Yona had no idea what was happening to the Jews under the Nazi occupation. She wanted to help this group of people that consisted of men, women and children, any way she could. All the people in the group had lost so much. Each one of them had lost love ones, their homes and livelihoods. The one thing they all had in common was the will to survive so they could recount the horrors they witnessed. Yona promised the people in this group that she would teach them how to survive as they lived in the forest. Was this Yona’s destiny? Yona, in turn, became the recipient of the valuable lessons the people in this group were able to teach her about friendship, trust and love. Yona opened her heart to the man she first met and taught to fish. Through Alexander, Yona learned the concept of love and caring for another person and what it meant to have a family. When Alexander betrayed Yona, she fled from those she thought had become her family and found herself in a small village that was occupied by the Nazis. Yona was about to discover something about her past that was hard for her to acknowledge and accept. How would that discovery alter her life and affect the people she had come to care for and love? The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel was a heart wrenching and powerful historical fiction novel that exemplified bravery, hope, survival and heroism. It was incredible that so many Jewish people were able to successfully escape from the ghettos and survive life in the forests of Eastern Europe. The Forest of Vanishing Stars was beautifully written and included many vivid descriptions of the forest and what its surroundings must have looked like. The many characters were well developed and complex and will stay with me for quite some time. I have read many of Kristin Harmel’s books and have liked them very much and this one was no exemption. I highly recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    2.5 By the very nature of the subject, it is hard to criticize any book that includes the horrific actions of the Holocaust. So, I'm not going to do that here and will keep my review short and simple. Keep in mind my rating is one of the lower ones I've seen and it's due to this reader, who felt there was too much of the personal romantic dealings, within. The authors note shows how well researched this book was an I wish I could have felt differently. But I didn't, so there you have it. A good 2.5 By the very nature of the subject, it is hard to criticize any book that includes the horrific actions of the Holocaust. So, I'm not going to do that here and will keep my review short and simple. Keep in mind my rating is one of the lower ones I've seen and it's due to this reader, who felt there was too much of the personal romantic dealings, within. The authors note shows how well researched this book was an I wish I could have felt differently. But I didn't, so there you have it. A good book but one that I felt could have been more impactful. My monthly read with Angela and Esil and no surprise we three like minded readers felt the same, to varying degrees.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annissa Joy Armstrong

    This book is not your typical book about the fleeing of Jews from the Nazis during WWll. It is so much more and it is just incredible!!! This book will evoke many emotions from you!! I cried, was angry at characters, was cheering for certain characters and did not want the book to end!! That always indicates to me that I am truly invested in the book!! Yona is stolen from her parents and taken to live in the forest with Jerusza. Jerusza teaches Yona how to survive in the forest by learning how to This book is not your typical book about the fleeing of Jews from the Nazis during WWll. It is so much more and it is just incredible!!! This book will evoke many emotions from you!! I cried, was angry at characters, was cheering for certain characters and did not want the book to end!! That always indicates to me that I am truly invested in the book!! Yona is stolen from her parents and taken to live in the forest with Jerusza. Jerusza teaches Yona how to survive in the forest by learning how to hunt, protect herself and gather the right berries and mushrooms. When Jerusza dies, Yona is left to survive in the forest by herself. She runs into a group of Jews who are fleeing from their city to avoid death and she joins with them to teach them about the forest. Yona is content with helping them until she is betrayed and runs to a nearby town that is controlled by the Nazis. This is where she runs into her past and must make a decision that will impact the rest of her life. I was 100% captivated with this book right from the start. The extensive research that Harmel does shines through in the detailed descriptions of the forest, plants and the herbs to use for medicinal purposes. I could vividly see the swamp and was transported there with Yona. This is a high 5 star read for me and can’t wait for the next bestseller by this author!!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    L.A.

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel takes place during WWII, which is an unforgettable time period in our history. When I think I know their stories... a book like this comes along. An amazing job on the research and relating it to the characters. This is told from a different avenue than most...basically about the ones who were not afraid to go on their own to help the Jews survive. Yona can survive on her own in the forest with some amazing survival skills taught by an unexpected c The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel takes place during WWII, which is an unforgettable time period in our history. When I think I know their stories... a book like this comes along. An amazing job on the research and relating it to the characters. This is told from a different avenue than most...basically about the ones who were not afraid to go on their own to help the Jews survive. Yona can survive on her own in the forest with some amazing survival skills taught by an unexpected caretaker. Jerusza is guilty for deciding Yona's future by taking her from the comfort of her wealthy German home at just two years old. Her justification is challenged by her ability to see the future and know the destruction that will occur. She sees that same gift in Yona, formerly known as Inge. You will see what Jerusza means later on in the book. When Jerusza dies at 102 years old, Yona is still able to live off the land. When Jews escape the horrendous life in the ghettos, she teaches them how to survive in the worst weather conditions and how to hunt for food. The only thing she wasn't taught was the gift of love that Jerusza never let her see. Without human contact, this was her first exposure to people as a family. When her feelings become too strong for one of the male cohabitants, she is so hurt that she chooses the solitary life again. This coming-of-age story is based on real life situations that the author relates in the background information at the end of the book. The way it is articulated with the research will blow your mind. The Holocaust in any aspect is always an emotional read. Thank you NetGalley & Gallery Books for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    I’ve been reading Kristin Harmel’s books since she wrote contemporaries full of heart. As she transitioned to historical fiction, my favorite genre, I could not have been happier. While she has made the arc to this genre, and her books are so beautifully done, I still feel her contemporary roots within the pages. What I mean by that is while this book is definitely historical fiction and not at all historical romance, the romance elements are a shade more prominent. I still need to read The Book I’ve been reading Kristin Harmel’s books since she wrote contemporaries full of heart. As she transitioned to historical fiction, my favorite genre, I could not have been happier. While she has made the arc to this genre, and her books are so beautifully done, I still feel her contemporary roots within the pages. What I mean by that is while this book is definitely historical fiction and not at all historical romance, the romance elements are a shade more prominent. I still need to read The Book of Lost Names, but this has been my experience with her other historical fiction books. I thoroughly enjoy them, but they do feel just a little different because of the crossover, if that makes sense. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is about Yona, who grows up in the forest outside Poland before and during the atrocities World War II. She is trained by the woman who kidnapped her in how to survive in the forest, as well as how to use the plants of the forest for healing. When Jewish refugees begin to flee to the forest for safety during the Holocaust, Yona helps them by sharing what she knows. The author’s note blew me away when Kristin Harmel shares the inspiration for this story. While I had heard about Jews finding refuge in the forests during the Holocaust, I did not know what a feat of survival it was and how a true community was formed. As is the case with many historical fiction reads for me, this one sparked my interest in learning more, and I have a nonfiction read and movie watching planned for the future. When I read the very first chapter, I knew I was in for a memorable story. Harmel shines a spotlight on the brave and heroic Jews who found safety and community in the forest. I received a gifted copy from the publisher. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  13. 5 out of 5

    Karen.J.

    “The Forest of Vanishing Stars” by Kristin Harmel 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Such a powerful Historical Fiction taking place in WWll the extent and depth to survive. Kristin Harmel you never disappoint me with your extensive research and incredible writing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    4.5 stars Is it possible that another Nazi Germany could be in the making where prejudice, hate, and death await those who do not fit into the mold established by the state, the media, and now social media? It's a horrible thought, but one which seems to be possible in the world we live in now. In Kristin Harmel's wonderful book, we again learn of this hate that occurred all those decades ago. It is a story of a girl child being taken by a woman of the forest who recognized in her, something speci 4.5 stars Is it possible that another Nazi Germany could be in the making where prejudice, hate, and death await those who do not fit into the mold established by the state, the media, and now social media? It's a horrible thought, but one which seems to be possible in the world we live in now. In Kristin Harmel's wonderful book, we again learn of this hate that occurred all those decades ago. It is a story of a girl child being taken by a woman of the forest who recognized in her, something special, something wonderful, someone who would stand up against the hate in the future. The time is the 1940s, the place is Poland, the setting is the forest where Jews escaped in order to save their own lives plus that of family and friends. It is through these Jews, that Yona has her first contact with others. Jeruzsa, the woman who had taken Yona at age two, had well trained Yona in the ways of the forest, the ways of survival, the ways of believing in God. However, Jerusza is a tough parent, never really showing Yona love or the care a child need. As Yona grows well educated by Jerusza, she is witness to many of the cruelties of the age she was born into. Yona can't believe what man is doing to man, so she intervenes in the one way she is well versed in. She leads the Jewish group she encounters deeper into the forest and teaches them ways of finding food, of what is edible, and how to seclude and travel so that their steps sound like a calm breeze blowing through the trees. Life is ever so hard, especially in the winter, but Yona and the Jews do just that facing innumerable odds. As more escaped Jews, come to the forest with the Nazis in pursuit, Jona is enamored by two men, one of whom will disappoint her, while the other having lost his entire family, is just not ready to open his heart. The author includes a reunion with Jona's real father, a Nazi higher up, and Yona soon realizes that his and others intent is to eliminate all the Jews. She will not stand for that and leaves him for her friends and the man she loves in the forest. After witnessing intense cruelty at the hands of her father, she runs back to her Jewish friends with warnings that could end their lives. Yona, is a true hero, she stands tall for what she knows is the right of all to have access to a life, one where all are equal, one where all are free. This powerful story, which has a touch of magical realism, courtesy of Jerusza, is one that reiterates the total horror of a race whose destiny seems to have been almost extinguished by hate. The author included many factual details in the telling as well as some gorgeous words coming from the various characters. It is well worth reading this heartfelt and heartbreaking story that Kristin Harmel has written. The characters, the settings come to life in this tale and it is a sure tribute to those three million Jews who perished in Poland, and all those who were left behind wondering forever why they survived. A definite recommendation for this story! Thank you to Kristin Harmel, Gallery Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this story due out July 6, 2021.

  15. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 Polish forest stars - Now available! Historical fiction, set primarily during the WWII time period. Our main character is Yona who has lived nearly her entire life in the forests of Poland. She was raised by a mysterious woman who knows every facet of how to live and survive in the forest and she passes her knowledge along to Yona. She warns Yona that dark days are ahead and that Yona should not leave the forest for the next few years. When Yona finds herself truly alone, she begins to wonder wh 4 Polish forest stars - Now available! Historical fiction, set primarily during the WWII time period. Our main character is Yona who has lived nearly her entire life in the forests of Poland. She was raised by a mysterious woman who knows every facet of how to live and survive in the forest and she passes her knowledge along to Yona. She warns Yona that dark days are ahead and that Yona should not leave the forest for the next few years. When Yona finds herself truly alone, she begins to wonder what life might be like in the nearby villages. She stumbles across a small group of Jews who have escaped a ghetto, Yona wants to help them, but they are suspicious of her. She teaches them much of what she knows and helps them survive a winter in the forest. Yona begins to feel part of their community and learns to open her heart. Is their time running out though to escape the Germans? The author has done a great deal of research about the thousands of Jews who survived the war hiding in the forest. There are terrible atrocities that are hard to read no matter how many stories I read. The human spirit is truly resilient, and I loved to read these stories of survival based on many true stories. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the copy of this one to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars will appeal to a lot of readers. There are many powerful scenes in the book and it was definitely suspenseful. It was also a very original look at WW2 and didn't spare the reader the horrors people faced at the hands of the Nazis. I also have to say that the ending was well done. However, despite these strengths, it fell a little flat for me. I didn't feel connected to the story and I think I struggled with the tone. At the beginning, which really hooked me, it had The Forest of Vanishing Stars will appeal to a lot of readers. There are many powerful scenes in the book and it was definitely suspenseful. It was also a very original look at WW2 and didn't spare the reader the horrors people faced at the hands of the Nazis. I also have to say that the ending was well done. However, despite these strengths, it fell a little flat for me. I didn't feel connected to the story and I think I struggled with the tone. At the beginning, which really hooked me, it had a fairy tale or folklore feel that felt much older that WW2, so when German soldiers started showing up, it felt out of place. I also expected Yona, the main character, to have a greater destiny than she did based on the beginning of the book. Yes, she helped save some people but I expected she was going to prevent something more major from happening. Instead it felt like she was just running around saving people like a WW2 superhero. I gave this 3 stars because I think it's a fascinating story and will appeal to many, unfortunately it just wasn't for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this advance copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Craig

    I love the title. I love the cover. I love everything about this book, and I had this feeling right from page one. It's well-written and well researched, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and is tired of the same old war stories. This book is unique. Characters: ★★★★★ Writing: ★★★★★ Level of Enjoyment: ★★★★★ I also Recommend: A View Across the Rooftops I love the title. I love the cover. I love everything about this book, and I had this feeling right from page one. It's well-written and well researched, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and is tired of the same old war stories. This book is unique. Characters: ★★★★★ Writing: ★★★★★ Level of Enjoyment: ★★★★★ I also Recommend: A View Across the Rooftops

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marci Colyer

    Great historical fiction book about a child who was stolen from wealthy German parents and raised by a woman in the forest. She used this knowledge to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis. Many Jewish who were in ghettos escaped to the forest during WW2 in an attempt to remain alive. I was surprised by how people in history were gathered in multiple ghettos and then if they didn’t die there, they were moved to death camps. The twist of this story is when this same child is a young woman and fin Great historical fiction book about a child who was stolen from wealthy German parents and raised by a woman in the forest. She used this knowledge to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis. Many Jewish who were in ghettos escaped to the forest during WW2 in an attempt to remain alive. I was surprised by how people in history were gathered in multiple ghettos and then if they didn’t die there, they were moved to death camps. The twist of this story is when this same child is a young woman and finds her birth father and learns he is a Nazi leader. She then uses her status as her father’s long lost daughter to try and save nuns from offering their lives in exchange for 200 town people’s. That is actually based on a true event called, “Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek.” She travels back to the forest after helping to save a young girl who has been shot with herbs from the forest. When she gets back to the forest, she goes to prepare a large group of Jews that the Germans are coming so they can prevent more deaths ( the real life Belski group) . They fled to the middle of the forest to a swamp area called , Krasnaya Gorka, which is also based on a true story. They tied themselves together so they wouldn’t sink in the mud and tethered themselves to trees so they wouldn’t drown while sleeping. The author does a great job describing the Nalibocka (Polish spelling instead of Belorussian spelling now) forest and how they survived during the war living in the deep forest. Excellent read.Such a great book that, I stayed up late to finish reading it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

    Wow... this was another fabulous story by Kristin Harmel. I have become quite the fan of her writing. This particular story is historical fiction, but it also has a touch of magic and some romance. I greatly enjoyed this story and can't wait to see what Harmel comes out with next. I will update with a more thoughtful review once I have had time to process this story. #ForestofVanishingStars #NetGalley Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of th Wow... this was another fabulous story by Kristin Harmel. I have become quite the fan of her writing. This particular story is historical fiction, but it also has a touch of magic and some romance. I greatly enjoyed this story and can't wait to see what Harmel comes out with next. I will update with a more thoughtful review once I have had time to process this story. #ForestofVanishingStars #NetGalley Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan Phillips

    Kristin Harmel delivers an incredible story based in history. I’ve told everyone I know about this wonderful book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Harvey

    An impeccably researched, beautifully written story, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS is a completely immersive, fully transportive read that explores a part of World War II history I was unfamiliar with. Protagonist Yona and her struggles will stay with readers long after the final page. Kristin Harmel just keeps getting better!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I absolutely loved this book by Kristin Harmel. I was intrigued by Yona right from the beginning. I loved the combination of her naiveté when with other people but incredible knowledge about the forest and survival skills. It was interesting to see her learn to connect and the family that she forms in the forest. There were some really tough scenes, but offset by quite heartwarming moments. It was an interesting story of WWII history that I was not familiar with. I appreciated the writing style I absolutely loved this book by Kristin Harmel. I was intrigued by Yona right from the beginning. I loved the combination of her naiveté when with other people but incredible knowledge about the forest and survival skills. It was interesting to see her learn to connect and the family that she forms in the forest. There were some really tough scenes, but offset by quite heartwarming moments. It was an interesting story of WWII history that I was not familiar with. I appreciated the writing style and was captivated from beginning to end.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    Although WWII is a time period that is hard to read about, it is one of my favorite time periods. The Forest of Vanishing Stars in not your typical WWII story, but Kristin Harmel tells the story in a different aspect that is compelling and unique written around facts. After being stolen from her wealthy German parents, Inge is raised in the wilderness by a young woman named, Jerusza, whom teaches her the way of wilderness survival. Jerusza changes Inge's name to Yona, which means dove due to the Although WWII is a time period that is hard to read about, it is one of my favorite time periods. The Forest of Vanishing Stars in not your typical WWII story, but Kristin Harmel tells the story in a different aspect that is compelling and unique written around facts. After being stolen from her wealthy German parents, Inge is raised in the wilderness by a young woman named, Jerusza, whom teaches her the way of wilderness survival. Jerusza changes Inge's name to Yona, which means dove due to the dove-live birthmark on Yona's wrist. The one thing Jerusza does not teach Yona is love-what it should feel like to be loved and how to love. Love leaves and makes you vulnerable. Once Jerusza dies, Yona comes across a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis in Poland. Yona teaches them how to survive in the forest and in return, they teach her special lessons in life and family. The tile of the book is a perfect fit. When I put two and two together with vanishing stars representing the Star of David Jews were required to wear on their clothing, I got goosebumps! I found this to be clever! This is a book that will stick with me for awhile and I find myself talking to my family, friends, and co-workers about non-stop. I would like to thank NetGalley and Gallery Books for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&SchusterCanada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. This is my 4th Kristin Harmel read and I feel that this author has certainly hit her stride in writing compelling WWII historical fiction. This is a very engrossing tale of how a young woman who has learned to live in the forest comes to the aide of small groups of Jewish refugees who are trying to survive their occupiers. A fantastic unputdownable read that kept me on the edge of my seat! Publication D Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&SchusterCanada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. This is my 4th Kristin Harmel read and I feel that this author has certainly hit her stride in writing compelling WWII historical fiction. This is a very engrossing tale of how a young woman who has learned to live in the forest comes to the aide of small groups of Jewish refugees who are trying to survive their occupiers. A fantastic unputdownable read that kept me on the edge of my seat! Publication Date 06/07/21 Goodreads review 25/07/21

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Gorgeous cover, beautiful title, incredible story! I absolutely loved this engaging coming-of-age World War ll novel. Kristin Harmel brings to life a colorful cast of characters that are hiding deep in the forests of Poland from the Nazi’s. Survival, female strength and human connection are amazingly portrayed, as are heart-wrenching moments and glimpses of hope as seen through the eyes of it’s characters. It follows Yona, born in Berlin to Germans, who was stolen as a baby and raised in the for Gorgeous cover, beautiful title, incredible story! I absolutely loved this engaging coming-of-age World War ll novel. Kristin Harmel brings to life a colorful cast of characters that are hiding deep in the forests of Poland from the Nazi’s. Survival, female strength and human connection are amazingly portrayed, as are heart-wrenching moments and glimpses of hope as seen through the eyes of it’s characters. It follows Yona, born in Berlin to Germans, who was stolen as a baby and raised in the forest by her captor. The story is written with a unique twist which sets it apart from other historical fiction novels. Cheers to Kristin Harmel for writing, yet another, unputdownable and gripping read - all the stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    This WWII Historical Fiction story, inspired by real events, follows a young woman named Yona who was stolen as a toddler, raised apart from society, and educated in various subjects by her captor to allow her to survive in the forests during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The premise has lots of potential, the cover is stunning, and it is clearly well-researched. But the story fell flat for me in plot and character depth and required me to suspend disbelief well outside my comfort zone. The sto This WWII Historical Fiction story, inspired by real events, follows a young woman named Yona who was stolen as a toddler, raised apart from society, and educated in various subjects by her captor to allow her to survive in the forests during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The premise has lots of potential, the cover is stunning, and it is clearly well-researched. But the story fell flat for me in plot and character depth and required me to suspend disbelief well outside my comfort zone. The story starts with an unexpected, whimsical feel that includes Yona's abduction at the age of two by a mysterious 80+ year old woman who managed to scale a home, steal a toddler and the live with the child in the woods for another two decades. Okay, so it's a bit of a fantastical start. I appreciate that Harmel tried something different by adding this magical realism element, but it is only briefly and vaguely described and except for mentions of Yona's gut feelings/Spidey Sense, it felt ignored. The story focuses on Yona's day-to-day survival which got a bit tedious but allowed readers to see Yona's mad survival skills - hunt, forage, build tools, whip up a herbal remedy and know how to go unnoticed in the forest. That's a lot for a 20-year-old who learned everything from a few books and her captor - a woman who doesn't like her and has unexplained foresight which she's somehow passed on to Yona. Clearly, readers will have to suspend disbelief about Yona's abilities, her vivid memories from her toddlerhood and how adept she is at socializing even though she spent her life away from all but one person. I feel like I'm poo-pooing this book, but I did like the larger story arc about a woman doing what she could to help Jews escaping the war. The strength of this book is in its themes of friendship, family and building our own sense of home and belonging. I also learned new things about WWII - specifically the cool bunker-like, rudimentary dwellings that some people used. And while not my personal preference, readers who enjoy religion in their books should like the scripture quotes within the story. I had hoped to enjoy this book more. I appreciated that Harmel tried something a bit different, but I was left with too many unanswered questions and a less suspenseful story that often felt more Bear Grylls than Historical Fiction. Inspiring but not quite believable, this slower paced, character focused story gives readers a unique perspective of WWII with some grittier elements, but generally keeps readers outside the major atrocities of the war. Readers will find the author's note at the end helpful in explaining some of the plot points. Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Authentikate

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five non-vanishing stars for this gem! Is our fate written in the stars? Are we destined to become what our blood has bequeathed us or can we make edits along the way? ——— If you’re like me, you’ve read your share of historical fiction books centering around the atrocities of WWII. A fascinating era in time, these books make for great stories of love, loss, triumph, failure...hope. But, you’ve read a lot of them, right? You’ve torn through pages of captivating stories...but, after some t ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five non-vanishing stars for this gem! Is our fate written in the stars? Are we destined to become what our blood has bequeathed us or can we make edits along the way? ——— If you’re like me, you’ve read your share of historical fiction books centering around the atrocities of WWII. A fascinating era in time, these books make for great stories of love, loss, triumph, failure...hope. But, you’ve read a lot of them, right? You’ve torn through pages of captivating stories...but, after some time the plots between these books seem to merge. If you answered “yes” to those questions you’ve not read Kristin Harmel! Her books are always a fresh take on this well-worn topic. Her last, The Book of Lost Names was such a fantastic novel I gave it all the stars! So, imagine my absolute joy when I was approved for The Forest of Vanishing Stars! Once again, Harmel takes the WWII genre and bends it, shapes it into something wholly original—fresh...SPECIAL! Her skills of imagination and storytelling are second to none among Hist-Fic authors. — — — Yona was born Inge. Her blood bequeathed her a fate that she could not abide. Yet, the alteration came when she was two years old and kidnapped by a mystical Jewish woman, raised in the forest. She was given a unique education, learning several languages, herbal remedies, and combat. This education will serve her well. As fate (perhaps not writing our paths but presenting many from which we chose) would have it, Yona is faced with her past years after the death of her mystical mentor. Faced with unimaginable choices, Yona shapes her own story, full of compassion, strength, and love. I don’t want to give too much away. This is one of those special books that teaches us as it entertains. Here we learn of love, the perseverance of the human spirit...we learn about redemption and choices...we learn that what makes us *us* is borne not from blood but from all the paths fate has taken us down along our road of life. Yona was born Inge...but, she’s the dove marked on her wrist, free to fly and to chose. (She’s such a special MC!) This was one of those stories, one of those characters that will stay with me. ALL THE STARS! 🙌⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thank you to netgalley and publisher for ARC in exchange for my honest take.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel, is a wonderfully written, exceptionally researched, heart-wrenching and suspenseful historical fiction novel. Inspired by true stories of survival against overwhelming odds this is the WWII story of a young woman stolen from her German parents at the age of 2. Yona is raised in the wilderness of Eastern Europe until her kidnapper dies when she is just a young woman. She uses her understanding and awareness of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel, is a wonderfully written, exceptionally researched, heart-wrenching and suspenseful historical fiction novel. Inspired by true stories of survival against overwhelming odds this is the WWII story of a young woman stolen from her German parents at the age of 2. Yona is raised in the wilderness of Eastern Europe until her kidnapper dies when she is just a young woman. She uses her understanding and awareness of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis. In turn, the Jews teach Yona some unexpected lessons about opening her heart after years of being alone. This is my first novel by Kristin Harmel and I am sure it will be among my favourites of the year. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    That red coat! I love, love, love this cover. This fascinating, bittersweet tale of the Jews hiding in the forests of Poland during Nazi occupation is one I did not know. Somehow I missed the movie "Defiance" that came out more than ten years ago starring Daniel Craig and was based on one of the largest hidden groups. What I loved about The Sweetness of Forgetting is also true of this book by Harmel. Discovering some new heroes and interactions during WW II that shed light on the good guys. Our That red coat! I love, love, love this cover. This fascinating, bittersweet tale of the Jews hiding in the forests of Poland during Nazi occupation is one I did not know. Somehow I missed the movie "Defiance" that came out more than ten years ago starring Daniel Craig and was based on one of the largest hidden groups. What I loved about The Sweetness of Forgetting is also true of this book by Harmel. Discovering some new heroes and interactions during WW II that shed light on the good guys. Our heroine, Yona, grows up in a very unorthodox manner. What she does to assist people she has never met before is simply amazing. I was fascinated by her knowledge of the flora and fauna and how efficient she was in utilizing natural resources. Unbelievable and inspiring. The title of this book brings to mind all those people who were forced to wear the star of David and simply vanished from the earth. Lord, give us wisdom to learn from the evils of the past. Thank you to Gallery books and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

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