Maria's Pick: “The Forest of Vanishing Stars” by Kristin Harmel
Many of us have read novels set during World War II, but this one stands apart from others because it is based on the history a little known group of Jews who fled into the Naliboki Forest in Poland and built encampments to escape the Holocaust. These men and women are now referred to as the Bielski Partisans.
In 1922, when anti-semitism was brewing in Germany, an eighty-two year old woman steals a two year old child from her wealthy German parents. She renames her Yona and raises her in the forests of Eastern Europe, teaching her all she needs to know to survive not only nature’s elements, but also human cruelty. When the old woman dies in 1941, Yona is left alone and aimless until she begins to come across Jews who have fled their villages and ghettos to avoid persecution and death from German Nazis. Yona feels compelled to help these people and she has the survivalist skills to do so.
What follows is a harrowing story that blends the mystical with the historical to create a story that is compelling in its portrayal of human cruelty and heroism. It will leave you wanting to learn more about the events of this amazing historical movement.
Book reviewed by Maria Smith, Neighborhood Reads Bookseller