BOOK CLUB: The Forest of Vanishing Stars

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The Forest of Vanishing Stars by American author Kristin Harmel is a well-crafted gripping and moving historical fiction novel. 

In 1922, eighty-two-year-old Jerusza lives in the immense forest of Poland. She begins to have visions and hears voices telling her of a child, she finds two-year-old Yona and kidnaps her from wealthy German parents.  

She believes Yona is meant for a higher purpose and the only way she can do this is for her to keep her safe and lead her toward the path she was intended for. 

For twenty years Jerusza taught Yona how to survive in the forest. Not only educating her on useful resources it had to offer, such as shelter, livelihood, water, food, and security but also her mind. The old woman would steal books, and teach Yona concepts and processes with a focus on different languages.

She knew there would come a time when she would no longer be around and wanted the girl to self-sustained as possible.

The old woman dies in 1941, leaving Yona all alone until she has an encounter with some Polish Jews. They have fled to the forest escaping Nazis in fear of being killed. Yona knows the forest can be cruel through brutal winters, predators, unsafe trails, and toxic plants. Although Jerusza told her not to trust anyone she feels this may be her calling to help. 

As Yona teaches them the way of the forest the Jews don’t trust her completely, risks of hiding changed the nature of even the closest and most trusted relationships. It was a matter of survival for all, especially for Yona being so innocent and now being a part of social interactions and the compliance of rules. 

The Forest of Vanishing Stars gives the reader just enough information about each character to ignite curiosity and increase the urge to read further.  Each character suffers from their own loss, anger, and heartache, but all relate to each other in one way or another. I connected with Yona as a person and felt great anguish with her as she learns who she is and what has happened to her, her continued development as a character only made me root for her more.

Historical fiction intrigues me and just when I thought I have read enough novels set during WWII, I encounter something hauntingly different. Dark and delicious with a transcendental feel is how I would describe this book. The fact that this was based on a true story made it extra fascinating and the ending so satisfying. 

I can’t imagine how anyone could have endured such an ordeal during such a horrid time in history, it makes you feel a wide range of emotions. I had to reread some paragraphs more than once and had to keep reminding myself that this really happened to real people. The Nazi regime was one of the darkest moments in history and this book reminds us that it should not be forgotten.

I felt the focus of the narrative is to remind readers that there are horrors of war we cannot escape. And there are also acts of compassion and courage that are just as significant. It is a story of love, hope, courage, fear, and anguish as they try to make sense of the present and the past.

Author Kristin Harmel has given readers an incredible story right from the start, expertly weaving fact with fiction, leaving readers with an intriguing tale in which it is easy to become immersed. Kristin did extensive research with notes at the end that include just enough historical background on true events to place the story within the context and pique the reader’s interest.

It is sobering to learn about the horrors that the survivors endured. This story is both moving and frightening. It offers a different perspective on the lives of those who suffered the Nazi occupation of their country during World War II. I highly recommend this book.

A selection of our members are reading The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel. You can read their reviews below, or add your own comments.

9 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Forest of Vanishing Stars

  1. I really loved this story and after reading it I found out that so many parts of the story have been taken from events that actually happened althoguh they have been altered a little to fit the story. So many of the stories to some out of the second World War as simply amazing.
    I found this book to be very moving and felt for Yona with her struggles for her identity. Being pure of heart and sturggling with the knowledge that she was born of German heritage yet raised as a Jew. Not understanding why or how there could be so much hate in the World.

    For me this is a must read book for 2023

  2. This was an amazing book.
    I loved the mix of fiction and truth combined.
    Could not put it down!

    Definately a must read

  3. A child ‘Inge’ is stolen from her wealthy German parents by Jerusza, an 82 year old eccentric, forest living, tooth-sayer. Inge is given a new name Yona, meaning dove in Hebrew, after the dove like birthmark she has on her wrist. Yona is told that she has been kidnapped to save her from a future disaster as she is “a light in the darkness no one knew was coming”.
    Yona grows up in the forest with Jerusza teaching her all the skills and knowledge required to live in the wilderness but when Jerusza dies at 102 Yona is a young woman all alone in world with just the forest as her friend. Yona rarely sees or has any other human contact until she comes across a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis. Yona learns of the horrors that are occurring in the villages around her and vows to help and protect the group now living in the forest. She yearns to find her parents so that she can find herself but she soon learns where she really belongs.
    There is heartache, betrayal, loss of loved ones, courage, resilience and a lot of sadness all set in and around the horrors of the Nazi regime in WWII.

  4. The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristen Harmer is an amazing thought provoking story.
    The author’s note at the end of the book tells us that it was based on a true story of Jewish people hiding from the Nazis during WW11 in the forests of Poland.

    1922 Jerusza kidnaps 2 year old Inge from a German family in Berlin. Jerusza believes the child has a higher purpose, she renames her Yona.
    Over the next 20 years she teaches Yona how to forage, hide and live in the forest.
    A time will come when Yona will need these skills to survive.

    After Jerusza passes, Yona is alone, until she meets a group of Jewish people fleeing the Nazis . Yona is able to help them by teaching them the skills to hide and survive.

    Yona has visions of herself as a small child in an other time and wonders about her parents.

    This is a story of heartache, loss, courage and resilience. There are twists to keep you engaged in the story.
    There is suspense, danger and love in this well researched historical based story.
    Loved it 5 stars.

  5. Oh my god I loved this book! It kept me enthralled from start to finish and I read it in 2 days.

    Whilst I understand that it is fiction but also has some historical facts woven in between, it feels real. It was well researched and thoroughly thought story.

    My only concern was at the start of the book I was worried that it was a witch craft sort of story that would not be believable. Thanks for proving me wrong.

    Thankyou so much for the read.

  6. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review the Forest of Vanishing stars by Author Kristin Harmel. This book is being added to my favourite reads, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
    The Forest of Vanishing Stars takes its inspiration from the vast Forests of Poland during WW2. It follows a story of bravery faced by Yona who is a compelling heroine amongst the many atrocities and is a story of triumph, generosity of spirit, both harrowing and uplifting and filled with historical details against the backdrop of life in Eastern Europe during WW2.

    So beautifully written, it illustrates human spirit, triumph and is recommended to all those who like historical fiction. I highly rate this book, it is a real page turner!

  7. This book. So thought provoking, so full of historical facts.
    If you don’t like War stories, you will not enjoy this. It is crammed full of facts that tie into the story of a little girl raised in a dark forest during the most horrific war, a girl who grows up knowing little of which is occurring outside the forest. When the woman who raised her dies, she soon discovers how sheltered her life has been.
    An enthralling read that I didn’t expect to enjoy but I did and highly recommend to lovers of Historical Fiction.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for a copy of Kristin Harmel’s book.

  8. Kristin Harmel delivers a powerful story told from a totally unique perspective. The Forest of the Vanishing Stars tells of the struggles endured by many Jews as they desperately tried to survive under a Nazi regime. Existing and surviving in swamps and forests, living underground, foraging for food, enduring desolate winters, Yona taught many of them the necessary survival skills.

    A truly powerful, thought provoking novel.

  9. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read The Forest Of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel.

    A story that well written that I didn’t want to put it down!!

    This story takes you into the war between the Germans and the Jewish people.

    The way it is written you can feel the pain and suffering of those that lost their lives.

    It follows the story of Yona who is kidnapped when she is young and raised in the forest while the war is on.

    A captivating story of loss, triumph and how the human race can be so cruel and others so kind.

    I am now looking forward to Kristin’s other books.

    Highly recommend ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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