Books,  Reviews

The Forest of Vanishing Stars

The Forest of Vanishing Stars

by Kristin Harmel
Published by: Gallery Books
Publish Date: 2021
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, World War II, Poland
HB&W Rating: 4.5
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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.

Synopsis source: Goodreads


In the times of greatest darkness, the light always shines through, because there are people who stand up to do brave, decent things. What I’m trying to say, Yona, is that in moments like this, it doesn’t matter what you were born to be. It matters what you choose to become.


I finished this book in two days. For me, that’s pretty dang quick and usually means forfeiting much-needed hours of sleep and disregarding some of those pesky adult things like laundry or cleaning. This book was really good, like if The Nightingale and Where the Crawdads Sing got together and had a baby, it would be this novel. It doesn’t quite have the edge of your seat unpredictability of those titles, but I feel like I’ve finally found another WW2 book that is of the same caliber as The Nightingale.

The Forest of the Vanishing Stars is the story of a woman raised in the woods who comes to the aid of Jews fleeing the ghettos of various towns in Poland (now Belarus) as they try to survive in the forest. It is a tale of survival, faith, and humanity (and lack thereof). It’s about understanding oneself, others, and learning to love both. It’s about the family one is born to and the family one makes. It is about courage, resilience, destiny, and so much more. This story just checked all of the boxes for me.

The plot was a bit predictable, and it is definitely a slow build, but, like Crawdads and Nightingale, those things did nothing to diminish the emotional depth of the story. I loved Yona for her courage and kindness, and her belief that we should all help each other when it is needed, no matter what. In a world where people are still very much only in it for themselves, we need Yonas. The writing was beautiful and the information about herbal remedies and survivalist medicine was very interesting and well-researched. I also found the author’s note at the end incredibly intriguing, as she talks about her inspiration for this story based on real-life people, places and events.

If you’re a WW2 historian fiction fan, I encourage you to pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time, happy reading!

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