Where the Forest Meets the Stars Glendy Vanderah

It was the title that initially captivated me with this absolutely sublime novel of wonder, love, loss, grief, trust and the power of relationships to heal. I started reading it and, before I’d reached the end of the second page, I turned to a friend who was lost in her own book and declared, “I love this book already.” The love never died but, with each page, increased.

This is the story of a young ornithologist, Joanna Teale who, recovering from more than her fair share of the kind of blows that life can throw, is conducting graduate research in a remote area, living alone, checking her bird nests and trying not to think too hard about her future apart from her recently neglected study. But when a young girl stumbles into the light of her campfire one night, dirty, poorly dressed and declaring she’s not of this world, Joanna is both captivated and alarmed. Calling herself Ursa, after the constellation, the girl is wondrous and clever but also clearly in need of help. Refusing to either seek aid from the authorities or “go home” until she has seen five miracles, Ursa soon becomes part of Joanna’s life in ways no-one could have foreseen, including bringing some interesting and broken people, counting the enigmatic Gabe from the property next door, into Joanna’s orbit. But as the summer draws to a close, Joanna understands she must make some difficult decisions about her future, those she’s met and, most importantly, the strange young girl for whom she’s come to care deeply. 

I don’t want to say too much more except that this is such a magical, heart-swelling tale that’s written in beautiful and often aching prose. I stayed up far too late, smiling through tears and nods, clutching the book to my chest, to finish this emotionally fulfilling and lovely story. It will stay with me for a long, long time. I almost wish I hadn’t finished it so I could enjoy the range of emotions I felt while reading it all over again – despite being bleary-eyed and soul-sore, I was also nourished. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

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