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Friends & Fiction Meet The Forest of Vanishing Stars


Posted by Author Patti Callahan | April 25, 2022


As many of you know, back in April 2020, I started—along with four other bestselling authors—a group called Friends & Fiction, designed to bring readers together and help support libraries and bookstores during the pandemic. The world has changed a lot in the two years since we began to build this group that has become such an important part of our lives, but some things have remained the same: our love of books, our passion for community, and the deep friendship we have with each other—and with many of you who have been along for the ride.

AND this week I want to celebrate Kristin’s

The Forest of Vanishing Stars.

We celebrated the hardcover release of The Forest of Vanishing Stars last July on Friends & Fiction, complete with a 15-minute mini-musical Kristin wrote herself—which we all performed in! You can see the musical here if you’re interested; it gives you a great idea of what the book’s about, but in short, it’s the story of a young woman named Yona who was kidnapped on her second birthday from her German parents and raised deep in the woods of eastern Europe by an old woman named Jerusza, who believes the forest itself speaks to her. In 1942, Jerusza dies, leaving Yona alone in the wilderness, and soon, her life intersects with a family of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi terror. For the first time, she realizes what is happening in the world outside her beloved trees, and as the forest begins filling with refugees, she must make a choice: does she retreat deeper into the woods (as Jerusza told her she must do), or does she help those who are simply trying to survive in a world gone mad? Once she makes her choice, her world changes, but soon she learns that you can’t run from the past forever…

We were all with Kristin every day—by text, by phone, and by Zoom—as she worked on this book, so we know how deeply she researched it, and how much it meant to her. It’s based on the extraordinary true stories of survival of real-life refugee groups in the forests of eastern Poland and Belarus, including the most well-known group, the Bielski partisans, who are profiled in the 2008 movie Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. For the book, Kristin actually got to spend time with the youngest (and only still-living Bielski brother), Aron, now 94—and she also spent countless hours emailing back and forth with a Belarusian forest guide and professor, who is an expert on the Naliboki forest, where the book takes place.

The world has changed since the hardcover came out and now, it feels timelier than ever. The Naliboki forest was within Polish borders during World War II, but now it is in the western part of Belarus, the country just to the north of Ukraine. As Ukrainian citizens continue to flee their country in the wake of the Russian invasion—and as many stay to fight—reading Kristin’s novel feels even more relevant and inspiring than ever.




New In Paperback Now!

If you didn’t read The Forest of Vanishing Stars in hardcover, I hope you’ll order it today in paperback; it’s out in just a few short days. It’s a sweeping World War II story of fate, love, destiny, and identity, and I know it will move and inspire you, just as it moved and inspired me. You can learn more here. And if you want to catch Kristin on her 10-city tour, you can check her event schedule here.





Friends & Fiction


There’s a special bond between writer and reader, and none of the four of us who founded and run Friends & Fiction today (New York Times bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and I) take that for granted. We know what a gift it is to be invited into your lives for a short period of time through the pages of our books, for we, too, are avid readers who love losing ourselves in the worlds other authors create.

That’s one of the many reasons that Friends & Fiction has been so important to us. This week, we’ll air our 120th episode (featuring Jane Green, with Kimberly Brock on the aftershow) as we celebrate the two-year anniversary of our show. And we have a phenomenal spring/summer schedule ahead of us, featuring some of the biggest names in publishing today, including Adriana Trigiani, Laura Dave, Tia Williams, Elin Hilderbrand, Jason Mott, Emily Giffin, and Harlan Coben. You can see our full spring/summer schedule here, and of course, we’d love for you to join us live every Wednesday night at 7pm ET on Facebook and YouTube to join in the fun.

Friends & Fiction is a labor of love for all four of us (as well as for our managing director, Meg Walker, our podcast host, Ron Block, and our behind-the-scenes producer Shaun Hettinger). We do this because we love you. We love each other. We love books. And we love diving beyond the page with our guests, engaging in discussions with readers on the Friends & Fiction page—and meeting you in person in the real world (more on that below!).

But the four of us are also writers with busy careers, and this spring has been particularly jam-packed for us. At the end of March, Kristy released her first-ever hardcover, The Wedding Veil, and kicked off a multi-week tour to meet readers all over the country. A week later, on April 5, the world was reintroduced to my Surviving Savannah when it launched in paperback, featuring a newly saturated, gorgeous cover.

Now, we’re gearing up for two more exciting releases next week. Mary Kay’s latest novel, The Homewreckers, will be out on May 3, and in a feat that’s rare for us around here, she’ll be sharing her publication date with Kristin’s The Forest of Vanishing Stars in paperback. I’ll be emailing you again next week to tell you more about The Homewreckers on its launch date!

Don’t forget to join us each Wednesday night on Friends & Fiction; to pick up the latest releases from Kristy, Patti, and Mary Kay, if you haven’t already; and to join us next Wednesday as we celebrate the launch of The Homewreckers. The four of us will also be touring together this summer, with Friends & Fiction LIVE appearances in the Cleveland area on May 4 (with Ron Block!), the Jersey Shore on May 19, and a soon-to-be-announced tour stop in mid-July. We’ll see you on the road—and on the show!

Happy reading!



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