The Holocaust, as a subject is one of the most potent narratives in the world of fiction. It is therefore, up to the writer to make their specific narrative stand out.
Kristin Harmel‘s new novel, The Forest of Vanishing Stars: A Novel, was published last month. In 1922, an old woman steals a child from her crib. Re-named Yona, she is raised in the forests of Eastern Europe and taught to survive off the land. Twenty years later, Yona’s adopted mother dies, leaving the young woman alone in the world. Coming upon a group of Jews who have so far escaped Nazi slaughter, she helps them to find safety and shelter in the woods. While Yona is providing them with the tools they need to live, they provide her with the family she never had.
When her past and her true parentage is revealed, she has a choice to make. She can either go with the man who fathered her, or she can listen to her own conscious.
Among stories of this nature, this book stands out. A cross between Rapunzel and a story of survival against all odds, it is unique within the genre. But it is not Harmel’s best book. The first couple of chapters were a little slow to get into. The final chapter, as to the fate of the characters, did not make complete sense. Unless I was missing something, I was not sure who the author was referring to.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.