Where The Forest Meets The Stars – Glendy Vanderah

5 stars

This book. I am speechless; truly. Where The Forest Meets The Stars completely took my breath away and is without a doubt the best book I’ve read in 2020. I adored this book so very much and for such different reasons. I’m going to try to keep the synopsis short and explain why it captured my heart in a little more depth.

Jo is a graduate student working on her PhD and studying nesting birds in rural Illinois. She’s been dealt a rough set of cards; she lost her mom a few months prior to breast cancer while simultaneously fighting her own battle with cancer at the age of 26. (Don’t let this scare you away, the book is not centered around this!). While staying in the little cabin designated for research students, a young girl shows up out of the blue. Dirty, shoe-less and claiming that she is an alien from another planet whom stole the body of a dead girl, Jo is clueless what to do next. The little girl, naming herself Ursa Major, is adamant that she came from outer space and is sent by her alien population; before she can ‘graduate’ from planet Earth, she first must experience five miracles. Once the five miracles have been witnessed, the girl can return to her planet.

Jo tries calling the police to help find where the girl came from but she is relentless, continuing to show up at the house day after day with her stray dog and hiding in the woods at the mention of ‘police’. Jo enlists a nearby neighbor, Gabriel, to help figure out what they should do with the girl and how to get her the help she needs. As time goes on, Jo loses interest in helping return the girl and instead gains a fresh outlook on the grim life that she once knew; realizing her heart is more open to love and emotions than she knew possible.

Never in my life have I read a book that I could so vividly envision from the start. Something about the way this book is written and the exquisite character development made it so easy for me to immediately put a face to each character. I’ve never experienced that with a book so early on. Because of this, I felt an extremely strong connection to all three main characters because they were so well established. The story sets us up to walk alongside each of them as they navigate new experiences and each one gets better and better with the turn of every page.

Ursa is the sweetest and most intelligent young character I’ve ever read about; she is curious and kind and gentle. Something about her reminded me so much of my sweet niece, which made me love her even more. She is brilliant for her young age and always wants more; to know more, to do more, to be more. Her willingness to fit in and experience love tugged at my heart. As much as I loved Ursa, I loved Jo just as much. A character my age whom lost her mother while also battling her own cancer, her maturity and maternal instincts made me melt. To witness she and Ursa’s relationship transform into the most beautiful connection truly made this book the gem that it is. There’s nothing more satisfying in a book than reading and experiencing a character’s hardened shell slowly melt into something more soft and sensitive. It’s scary to put your guard down, even for fictional folks, and when we get to watch the transformation over time it makes them feel real.

To be honest, I’m not even sure if what I’m saying makes any sense or if I gave this book even an ounce of justice. The character and story development in this book are unlike any I’ve read and I truly am so grateful that I experienced the magic that is Where The Forest Meets The StarsIf you read any book over this quarantine, I do hope it’s this one.

 

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