I could not put down the latest book by one of our own West Orange hometown authors, Kristin Harmel, which is due out in July. The Forest of Vanishing Stars (Gallery Books, July 6, 2021, $28.00) is about a young girl raised in the forest by an old woman who kidnapped her during the rise of the Nazi party. Kristin was able to achieve a trifecta +during COVID, which served as bookends to what was a crazy year. She released two paperbacks and two new books, all released within a year and all bestsellers.
The story is like a fairy tale, the story of a princess, stuck in the proverbial high castle masked as a forest with her identity hidden—part Wonder Woman, where she learned strength and resilience... part Snow White, where she was always protected in woods filled with danger by an old woman, who could somehow see her future as a contributor to the resistance, seemed to be able to magically protect her against all odds... and finally part love story.
The story begins in the year 1922 before World War II and a two-year-old Yona is stolen from her German parents by an old woman for reasons that will be revealed. She is taken into the woods and taught everything she needed to know on how to stay alive and to defend herself, and how to live alone in the woods. After 20 years, the old woman dies, leaving Yona alone in the woods with an incredible revelation.
Yona is not familiar with the rise of the Nazi party. She becomes aware that there are people escaping into the woods more frequently. As she becomes less guarded by the refugees and begins to help them, she learns that the Jewish people are being hunted down by the Nazis. She makes the decision to help them survive in the woods.
Yona becomes enmeshed with the refugees' lives and becomes important to their survival. But interaction with others has its consequences and takes Yona on a complicated journey to find herself and learn who she really is. The ending was poetic and left me wanting to understand more. As a side note, Kristin did a great job of explaining the historical background that inspired the book. Hands down, a different spin on the human condition and experiences during the Holocaust.— Lauren Zimmerman
July 2021 Indie Next List
“A little girl is kidnapped from her parents and raised in the wilderness. As a young woman, she uses her skills to help Jewish refugees survive in the forests of Poland. From the first page, I didn't want to put the book down.”
— Jill Gregory, A Likely Story, Sykesville, MD
Parade “Best Books of Summer” pick * Real Simple summer reading pick * SheReads “Best WWII Fiction of Summer 2021” pick
The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) 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 from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).
About the Author
Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of a dozen novels including The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is also the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends and Fiction. She lives in Orlando, Florida.
"Fascinating, meticulously researched, and utterly unique."
— Kelly Rimmer, New York Times bestselling author of THE WARSAW ORPHAN
"A powerful and compelling masterpiece, a significant story for our present time."
— Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis
"With breathtaking natural descriptions, vivid historical details, and a brave heroine worth cheering for who must fulfill a destiny prophesied since birth, this novel is not to be missed!”
— Heather Webb, USA Today bestselling author of The Next Ship Home
"What a triumph! Not since Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers, have I read such a spellbinding and immersive tale of a people's will to survive."
— Stephanie Dray, NYT Bestselling author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette
"In this always compelling, sometimes harrowing tale, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS draws readers into a singular story of survival and bravery. Set against the backdrop of Eastern Europe during World War II, the resourceful Yona, forced to become expert in the ways of the forest when a sage, prescient elderly woman takes Yona from her German family, must decide whether she'll rise up to claim the destiny foretold about her when faced with a band of Jewish refugees hiding in her beloved woods. Inspiring and gripping."
— New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict