Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The beauty of this book is that you want to believe Ursa’s alien story; and at times start to think maybe it is true. Glendy Vanderah gives our little girl, Ursa, such a strong, passionate and intelligent voice that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. As I thought might happen by the end of the novel I was bawling my eyes out. For so many reasons and at so many levels; none of which felt cheap or convenient.
Each character we encounter is unique and each has their own challenges. Individually these people felt like real people; who all have complex issues. From Gabe, a reclusive depressive 20 something who can’t get away as he cares for his ailing mother; to Jo, our strong lead female who has undergone a full mastectomy (before she reached 25 years of age), a recent orphan and full-time PhD student; to Tabby who is the kind of bubbly crazy friend that always knows how to do something seemingly insane to get a smile. Even out periphery characters are given enough life to feel like I could relate them back to real people I know.
This is a character drive story at its core. While the plot is very interesting (and gives us some tense and terrifying moments); the reality is that it’s less about a little girl who just shows up one day with no parents (and no one reporting her missing), and more about the love that grows between the child, our lead Jo and Jo’s possible love interest Gabe. Each of them struggles with their current life and each of them transforms through the book.
I love how adorable Ursa’s ‘miracles’ are. I won’t spoil them for you; but it’s so heart warming and an important reminder that what may seem a miracle to one feels commonplace to another. And that we all experience miracles on a semi-regular basis; we’ve just lost the ability to see them as the miracles they are. This is a perfect book for someone who might be struggling to overcome a tough time or incident in their life. As all three characters are also doing so; but more importantly the reminder that miracles happen everyday; you just have to look for them.
Right from the opening line I was intrigued and ready to jump into this story. How can you not be curious when the first sentence is:
"The girl could be a changeling."
It reminded me of the straightforward, to the point opening lines of Dickens. “The Marleys were dead to begin with”; the line is both enchanting, setting a mood and letting you know right away that something might be a bit off in this novel you’re about to encounter.
A couple months ago I thought Miracle Creek would be the best debut novel of 2019. Where the Forest meets the Stars has blown Miracle Creek out of the water and solidly affirmed itself as one of the best debut novels I have ever read (never mind for just 2019). I hope to see a lot more from Vanderah. Although I wouldn’t mind if the next story was a little less teary near the end (it’s just so embarrassing to tear-up on the bus).
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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