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.
4,75 “buddy listening” stars
Having finished the audiobook of Salt to the Sea I was looking for my next best read when Ari from Reading Under Street Lamps asked in her story who would like to buddy read Where the Forest Meets the Stars with her.
I read the synopsis, saw all the good ratings (already more than 16.000 ratings on Goodreads for a book published only one month ago!) and jumped in!
I won’t say a lot about the plot as part of the fun was guessing if this book was contemporary or with PNR element or with an alien come to visit us to teach the characters some lesson, kind of like a philosophical tale.
Know that right from the start I was engrossed in the story!
I even earned my “warrior” badge on audible as I could not stop listening to that story!
Glendy Vanderah has what I told Ari a “mature” writing while Ari called it “crisp, clean and precise”. It does not have unnecessary flourishes, goes straight to the essential yet has a poetic quality.
Jo has lost her mother two years ago. She’s also beat breast cancer and her body has been altered forever. She is trying to catch up on the lost time and get her PhD. Her specialty are birds and when the story begins she is in a summer cabin, loaned by a professor for students wanting to make some field work on the summer holiday.
Every day Jo wakes up early and goes observing nests, jotting down notes for her thesis.
The writing is so good that I could see the nature, the fields, the forest, the birds. I could feel the sun rays, the blistering heat. I was really studying these birds right alongside Joanna.
One day Joanna will notice a small girl observing her from the fringe of the forest, close to her home. When the child comes closer she will tell Jo that she comes from the stars, from the Pinwheel Galaxy. She took the body of a dead girl and is on earth to complete her PhD, observing humans, earth etc. She will go back to her planet once she’ll have seen five miracles.
Not some religious miracle. No. Things that will amaze her.
The name she gives to Jo is unpronounceable and she tells Jo to call her Ursa.
With the child comes a puppy, roaming the woods close to the cabin for some days now. He is an errant dog and will soon be named Little Bear by Ursa who took a liking to him.
Jo will try to send Ursa home but Ursa insists on being an alien. That first night she will sleep in the forest.
Jo sees Ursa coming back every day, marked with bruises and she will reluctantly agree to let her stay. One call to the sheriff has Ursa fleeing in he woods! As the sheriff’s assistant hints at a kid being worse when going to a foster home Jo will follow her heart and take Ursa under her wing while waiting to find her parents after enlisting the help of her neighbor “eggman” alias Gabe.
Both adults want to find Ursa’s family but none is ready to deliver her to the police as Ursa threatened to leave if the police came for her. In their own way they want to protect the little girl, avoid that she ends up in evil hands and they will “share” her custody. Ursa will go on Gabe’s farm in daylight when Jo works on her thesis and she will go back to sleep at Jo’s at night.
This is all that I will tell you about the plot.
The story is centered around the relationships developing between these characters. All have been bruised by life and have flaws.
Jo has been deeply changed by her mom’s death and her own surgery that left her without breasts nor ovaries. Unable to give birth one day…
Gabe is a recluse as he has social anxiety. He has more problems than “just” social anxiety and we will learn some heavy secrets that changed his life and altered its course. He lives on the family farm and takes care of his invalid mother. As he looks like a farmer, sells eggs and has a bushy beard Jo is surprised when she realizes that Gabe loves Shakespeare!
Thanks to Ursa’s “magic”, her unrelenting curiosity about nature and its wonders, her extremely bright mind and will to spend time with both of them they will soon bond on a deep level.
I really loved witnessing their blossoming friendship. With small touches, step by step, Glendy Vanderah gives substance to their special healing bond. Jo will regain some confidence in her body, she will hope for more in her life than study and work. Gabe will smile more often, go out of his shell.
Both were very protective of Ursa. The unexpected child who will teach them so much.
This is a story about healing. Not only your body but your soul. How some people fate makes you meet will walk with you on that path and help you see the light again.
This is a story about a mysterious kid who will teach so much to adults!
This is a story of wonder and magic. That will make you constantly wonder what the truth is. Does Ursa really come from the stars?
This is a story about care and love. About fighting for what you want. At one point in the story Jo gave such a passionate speech about why she should be chosen and would be a perfect fit to take care of Ursa that I really was on the verge of crying. I wanted to shout : “Just listen to her! Just overcome your prejudice! Don’t you see how she is right?”.
This is a story about family secrets and siblings rivalry.
Lacey, Gabe’s sister was evil! I despised her so much!!! Yet by the end of the story she surprised me and showed a side of her that I would never have guessed. Her change was even so extreme that I thought it was a little too convenient for the story that could have turned syrupy if not for another setback that showed up around the same time. This is the reason of my missing 0,25 stars.
I was enthralled, enraptured, mesmerized. I wanted to KNOW the truth. I needed this to have a happy ending. When the plot turned into thriller I was seating at the edge of my seat, my mind completely focused on the riveting and dramatic turn of events. I simply could not breathe anymore!
To sum it up: this is a brilliant story, told in a crisp yet poetic prose and supported by a cast of flawed, relatable characters. I had a fantastic time buddy reading with Ari! This is a MUST READ and will be on my bests of 2019.
Have you read this story? Do you know of any other story that moved and enthralled you so much that you need to share with me?
Thanks for reading!
I have seen this one and now I totally want to get it. It sounds like an amazing book. Great review Sophie!
Excellent review! I hadn’t heard of this book before but you have me convinced I need to check it out.
Oh Suzanne I swear it’s a really brilliant one! It’s what can be called “woman fiction” and was just perfect!
This sounds wonderful and so was your review, Sophie!
Thank you Laura! I promise it was as wonderful as it sounded 😉
I haven’t heard of this one but a ‘must-read’ from you, Sophie, is a command I can’t turn down. You are so reliable with your reviews and I know I’ll probably love this one as much as you. It’s on my list!
Oooh that’s high praise Alexandra! I think you’ll love it indeed. So original 😉
Great review, Sophie! I never heard of this book but it sounds very very interesting! 🙂
Thank you Raven and honestly I think you’d like it!
Love the title! Great review, Sophie, you have me curious now 🙂
Oh Jacquie it was unique!
Somehow this one kind of stayed under my radar. But it does sound interesting for sure. It’s kind of fascinating just thinking about what someone not from our world would find miraculous. I’m pretty sure it’d be something we find pretty normal.
Exactly Norrie! You nailed it! What we find normal is extraodrinay in that book. And that’s great as you get to see our world in another perspective!