Tag Archives: Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars: A Novel Book Review

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.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fairy Tales, Feminism, History

The Room on Rue Amelie Book Review

When we make a choice, we never know what the consequences of that decision will be. We can only hope that it will turn out for the best.

In Kristin Harmel‘s 2018 book, The Room on Rue Amelie, Ruby is a young woman in the late 1930’s. Attending college in New York City, she meets and instantly falls in love with Marcel, a Frenchman from Paris. After the wedding, they move to Marcel’s hometown. At first it seems as they are in newlywedded bliss. But then World War II starts and their marriage is forever altered. The man she married and the man who stands in front of her are two different people.

After he is killed, Ruby discovers that her husband was part of the resistance. Picking up where he left off, she hides Allied soldiers who have landed in enemy territory. One of them is a RAF pilot who Ruby immediately connects with. She also takes in Charlotte, the young daughter of her Jewish neighbors who have been arrested. As the war continues on, the level of danger grows tenfold. They know they want to survive, but fate may have other plans.

I really enjoyed this book. Harmel’s story of love, resistance, fate, and hope is emotional and powerful. The relationship that kept me going was the one between Ruby and Charlotte. Their sisterly bond was the strongest among the characters, keeping them both going in a time when their circumstances could have easily broken them.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

The Winemaker’s Wife Book Review

Both love and war have a way of forever changing our worlds. When they come together, that change can span generations.

The new novel, The Winemaker’s Wife, by Kristin Harmel is set in two different time periods: World War II and 2019. In 1940, Ines and Michel are newlyweds. Michel is the owner of a prestigious champagne house Maison Chauveau. Soon after the wedding, the Germans invade. Michel starts to treat his wife as if she was his child.

Feeling angry, alone and desperate for affection, Ines makes a foolish connection with a collaborator. She is unaware of her husband’s work with the resistance and that his chef de cave‘s half Jewish wife, Celine is taking a chance by falling in love with a man who is not her husband.

In 2019, Liv’s marriage is over. When her imperious and wealthy French grandmother announces an out of the blue trip to France, Liv has no choice but to go. The trip will be nothing short of life changing.

I loved this book. The characters felt alive and real, as if I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. I loved that this book reminded me that there were good people during World War II who did not stand idly by during the Nazi occupation. They fought back with whatever means they had.

About halfway through the book, I thought I knew how it would end. But Ms. Harmel surprised me with a twist that thoroughly shocked, surprised and delighted me.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History