Friday, September 24, 2021

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

 At the age of two, Inge is kidnapped from her German parents. Rechristened Yona, she is raised in the wilderness by Jerusza, an elderly mystical Jewish woman.  She tells Yona her parents were evil, and she teaches her about how to live in the wild.  She is convinced that Yona needs to learn these things for a reason.  Jerusza dies after World War II starts and Yona discovers groups of Jewish people living in the forest.  She realizes her purpose in life is to help them survive.  Will they be discovered by the Germans? 

 This was a fascinating historical fiction novel.  It felt like a mystical or magical realism book at times.  I looked it up as it seemed more like a fairy tale than a real story.  What I found online and what is included in a great afterword to the book is that this was indeed a true historical event.  Jewish people did flee into the forest and did have a large-scale settlement that was able to hide from the Germans until the end of the war, the Bielski Partisans.  The Bielski Partisans are mentioned in this novel.  There is also a 2008 movie called Defiance about the Bielski Partisans starring Daniel Craig.  I need to watch this.

 I loved Yona as a character.  She felt called to help people, but she also felt a deep loneliness in life from her strange upbringing.  I’ve always enjoyed survival novels and did like how her she is able to use her knowledge of the forest to survive herself and to help others.  I like how she had to learn to live with people as well and I also enjoyed when she fell in love.  It was also interesting that Jerusza implied that Yona was predestined for her role in helping others.  Do you believe in predestination?

 Favorite Quotes:

“We’ve all lost so much.  When we find happiness, especially where we didn’t expect to, we must hold it close with all our might, don’t you think?”

 “Every time a good soul dies, I think the world gets a little darker.”

 “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

 “I’m broken, too.  But sometimes it’s the jagged edges that allow us to fit together.  Sometimes it’s the breaks that make us strong.”

 “You have to remember one thing for the rest of your life:  hardship teaches a person life.”

 Overall, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a unique and fascinating World War II historical fiction novel.  There is a lot out there in this genre lately and it’s great to find new aspects of it.

 Book Source: Review Copy from Netgalley and Gallery Books.  Thank-you!

1 comment:

  1. Laura,
    This sounds like a touching story and Yona sounds like a strong main character. I love your favorite quotes!