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.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars is a sweet, fantastical story hiding a dark underbelly.
I dare you to read this book and not instantly fall in love with Ursa. Her quirky intelligence is incredibly endearing, and it’s no surprise that Joanna and Gabriel struggle to do the ‘right thing’ and turn her over to the authorities.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars is written to be incredibly emotional
and the ending, though beautiful, is pretty unlikely,
but I was totally on board. At some point, I just got caught up with these characters and stopped caring whether any of this would actually happen.
The main pet peeve here is how dismissive Joanna is of Gabriel’s mental illness. She seems to be of the opinion that he uses his depression and social anxiety as excuses to keep him from reaching his potential. Unfortunately, the narrative appears to support her baseless assertion by having Gabriel ‘get better’ when Joanna and Ursa force their way into his life. While this is only a small part of the story, it’s a fairly ignorant, and even dangerous, perspective on mental illness.
Covering a lot of heavy topics, Where the Forest Meets the Stars manages to remain pretty optimistic, and the story is incredibly captivating and difficult to put down. If you allow yourself to be swept up in the magic, this is an emotionally charged gem of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.