Book Review: Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

Title: Where the Forest Meets the Stars
Author: Glendy Vanderah
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Suspense
Page Count: 328 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: March 1, 2019

Publisher’s Summary: After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.

My Thoughts: I was hooked from page one. Make that sentence one. After reading Where the Crawdads Sing, I was hungry for more adult contemporary fiction, and this one fit the bill. It even had a perceived added magical realism element, that of the little girl claiming to be an alien.

Jo Teale is a graduate student researching nesting birds in the countryside of Illinois when a little girl shows up on the property, claiming to be an alien. Jo does everything to try to return the girl home, but Ursa, as the girl calls herself, insists that she’s an alien, until even the police don’t know what to do with her. Ursa says she’ll leave after she’s witnessed five miracles on earth. Jo becomes Ursa’s guardian, unwillingly at first, but fast grows attached to her new charge. Jo also begins to spark a relationship with Gabriel, a local farmer who sells eggs on the roadside. Gabriel wants to help Jo solve the mystery of Ursa, but they must be careful, lest Ursa run off, or the two adults face deep trouble for harboring a child that’s not their own.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that, if you want to know where Ursa came from, and whether she really is an alien, you’ll have to read the whole book. If I have one criticism, it’s that Jo’s backstory is perhaps too tragic, at the risk of being melodramatic. I thought it was enough that she survived breast cancer and needed a double-mastectomy; to have lost her mom recently to cancer as well just seemed unnecessarily harsh. Although, perhaps it explains why Jo feels such a strong maternal urge toward Ursa, since she knows what it’s like to lose her mother.

I found this to be a very engaging, addicting read. I recommend it to readers interested in magical realism, contemporary romantic thrillers, science and environmentalism, parenting and social issues.  

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