The Forest of Vanishing Stars – Interesting novel
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel is fiction, but the bestselling author’s research adds richness and realism to this gripping tale. During the Holocaust, the Jews escaped from the ghettos and created settlements in the woods, which combined to survive both genocide and wild life. These communities became “the Forest of Vanishing Stars.”
The plot opens in a Polish forest during the Great Depression. Twelve-year-old Rivka Rossi’s family is struggling to survive after their home has been destroyed by the Nazis. Her father has been taken away by the Germans and her mother is desperately trying to raise Rivka and her brother, Ben, alone. The two children sneak off into the forest one night and rescue a baby. The baby’s Jewish parents left her as an offering to God because they were too afraid to try to save her themselves. Rivka takes the baby, calling her Ester, back to their family.
The story moves ten years later, where we meet the two children’s adult selves and learn how their lives unfolded since that first night in the forest. The two couples meet and fall instantly in love despite their extreme differences – Rivka’s family is poor but they are devout Jews while her father and his parents have left the religion. Their story is a tale of survival on multiple levels as they must now work together to survive both Nazi persecution during WW2 as well as gypsies who live in the forest and have different views on how to live one’s life.
The author’s creative storytelling is eloquent and mesmerizing. The descriptions of the woods are so vivid that I’m certain any reader would be able to picture the breathtaking scenery. The two couples must not only battle the Nazis but also their own internal demons as they struggle to come to terms with their relationship, and how they must face both in order to survive.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars is an easy and enjoyable read with just the right amount of romance, drama, action and history to hold your interest from beginning to end. It reminds us how important love can be during a time where all hope seems lost.