This post contains affiliate links. One of the ways I keep myself motivated to walk on the treadmill several mornings a week is by listening to audiobooks. I have an Audible subscription for $16 a month, and with that subscription, I get one free book credit a month. One I recently chose to listen to was The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel. Honestly, if I wasn’t too cheap to buy another book, I would have stopped reading this book when I was about half way through. This is easily the worst book I’ve read this year.
About The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
Inge is born to a Nazi commander and is abducted when she is just two years old. The person who abducts her is an old woman, Jerusza, who kidnaps her to save her from her German parents. She renames Inga Yona, and she raises her in the forest. Jerusza teaches Yona everything she can, and when Yona is in her early 20s, Jerusza dies.
Though Jerusza has warned Yona that a terrible war is happening (World War II) and that she should keep her distance from any other people, Yona can’t resist when she starts seeing people in the woods. She chooses to help these wandering Jews so that they can survive in the forest.
The next few years of the war take Yona on a journey throughout the forest and into civilization with a variety of different people.
My Thoughts on the Book
Honestly, I didn’t look at the author’s name when I chose this book, which was a mistake. I’ve read several Kristin Harmel books, but there’s only one I really enjoyed–The Book of Lost Names. Every other book I’ve read of hers I disliked (like The Sweetness of Forgetting) or I had to completely suspend my disbelief (like When We Meet Again). This book was no different.
My biggest complaint with this book is the overt romance throughout. Jewish people in real life did flee to the forest, some living in large goups. I’m sure romances did occur. However, the way Harmel writes the romance is like a Harlequin romance set in World War II, which feels disrespectful to the time and the horror that is occurring.
I was incensed to hear in the author’s notes that Harmel had the chance to interview a man whose brothers led one of the biggest bands of people through the forest. How can Harmel take such a story of loss and triumph in the woods and turn it into the basis of her novel, which I felt was disrespectful?
However, as much as I disliked this book, I did appreciate her comments in the author’s note. She did teach me about a new branch of the Holocaust I didn’t know much about.
I give The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel 2 out of 5 stars on The Mom’s Plans’ scale.