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The Forest of Vanishing Stars

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

By Kristin Harmel

A Beautifully Written Story of a Young Woman Who Uses her Skills and Knowledge of the Forest to Help Jewish Refugees Survive.



A two-year-old girl is stolen from her bed in the apartment of her young, wealthy German parents in 1922. The child is raised in the forest by Jerusza, the 82-year-old woman who kidnapped her. Jerusza renames the girl Yona, meaning Dove, in Hebrew, and teaches her how to read, defend herself, and survive in the wilderness. She also teaches Yona about the perils of the outside world and encourages her trust no one. Jerusza dies at the age of 102 in 1942, and Yona, at 20, finds herself alone and lonely.

She soon meets a group of Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi extermination. She is stunned to learn what is happening in the world outside of the forest and vows to help keep the Jews safe by teaching them how to survive in the woods.

As Yona grows closer to the refugees, she opens her heart, despite the previous warnings from Jerusza. When she is later betrayed, she is devastated and abandons the group. As she struggles to figure out where she truly belongs, Yona enters a Nazi-occupied village, and her past and present collide, with devastating consequences.


THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS is a beautifully written and brilliantly plotted story. Harmel grabs the reader from the onset with the unusual kidnapping by an elderly woman who hears a voice in the trees. Harmel weaves a mesmerizing tale. She skillfully transports us to the forest, where we can smell the trees, hear the woodpeckers, see the mushrooms, and feel the freezing snow

Yona’s character was delightful. She was brave, courageous, and intelligent. Harmel brings the blond-haired Yona to life on the pages of this poignant novel. Jersurza’s character was also well-developed, determined and unique. There is a spinning carousel of characters entering Yona’s forest, but Harmel does a great job of character development and shining a spotlight on those characters who play a significant role. The story is both heart-wrenching and hopeful and a BSR best book for 2021.

Kristin Harmel lives in Florida and is a graduate of the University of Florida. She has written over 13 novels; her most recent include The Book of Lost Names (2020), The Winemaker’s Wife (2019), and The Room on Rue Ameliie (2018).

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Simon & Schuster

Published July 6, 2021

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