3 Sentence Summary
Glendy Vanderah’s Where the Forest Meets the Stars is an amazing blend of magical realism and heartfelt storytelling. Join Jo, a resilient cancer survivor, as she encounters a peculiar girl claiming to be an alien, leading to unexpected connections and a journey of healing, love, and personal transformation. With its mix of emotions, tender moments, and a touch of magic, this extraordinary novel will leave you longing for more.
Summary Read Time: Less than 6 minutes
Actual Book Length: 332
First Published in: 2019
Below is the detailed yet quick Where The Forest Meets The Stars summary:
Joanna Teale, a diligent doctoral candidate with a passion for avian ecology, temporarily resides in a secluded woodland cabin to continue her research. She’s running two years behind schedule, having fought her own battle against cancer while also mourning her mother’s similar demise. Jo’s life takes an unexpected turn when a peculiar girl mysteriously appears on her property.
Clad in pajamas and barefoot, this child insists she’s an alien, temporarily occupying a deceased girl’s body. Despite her skepticism, Jo feels compassion for the girl and offers her food. The child quickly bonds with a stray dog. She names it Little Bear, and holds firm to her alien persona, claiming she’s here to observe five miracles before returning to her celestial home.
The mysterious girl reappears the next day. Jo decides to prepare breakfast, necessitating a visit to her neighbor Gabe’s egg stand. Gabe, a man she hasn’t interacted with much, learns about the unusual girl. He attempts to extract more information from the child but her extraterrestrial narrative remains unaltered. Intrigued yet dismissive, Gabe leaves them be. Later, as Jo has the girl bathe before dinner, she discovers bruises on the child’s body, prompting her to contact the local authorities.
The girl swiftly vanishes when the police arrive. The dismissive deputy suggests that involving her in the foster care system might only exacerbate her situation, and departs without searching the premises. Jo is left worried, her search for the girl within her property proving unsuccessful.
The next day, as Jo prepares to head to town for laundry, she discovers the girl, noticeably more unkempt, having spent the night in a rain-soaked shed. Jo offers breakfast and allows the girl to stay inside while she’s out. At the laundromat, Jo confides in her best friend, Tabby, about her struggle with her mother’s absence. On a call, Jo learns that some colleagues will be staying at her cottage overnight. Upon returning home, she finds the girl missing, only to reappear later, introducing herself as Ursa.
Jo, preparing for her guests’ arrival, takes Ursa for a field trip, which the girl thoroughly enjoys. Ursa discovers a birds’ nest, which she declares her first miracle. Jo’s visitors, including an old flame named Tanner, arrive. Tanner’s insensitive remarks about her post-cancer reconstruction leave Jo distraught. Ursa attempts to comfort Jo, but her efforts are rebuffed.
The next day, Jo finds Gabe waiting for her, upset about Ursa spending the night on his property. They agree on a shared responsibility for Ursa, with Jo taking care of her during the evenings, and Gabe allowing her to spend daytime on his farm. Ursa proclaims the kittens in Gabe’s barn as her second miracle, and she starts to thrive under their care. Jo, however, is thrown off balance when Ursa tells her Gabe let her fire a gun. An apology from Gabe and a shared moment under the stars studying Ursa’s claimed galaxy leaves Jo battling her insecurities and confused feelings for Gabe.
As the days unfold, Ursa joins Jo on her research outings. During a trip to town with Jo, Ursa meets Tabby and is captivated by her free-spirited nature, declaring Tabby her third miracle. Jo and Tabby secure a rental house they’ve dreamt of, a feat Ursa attributes to her cosmic influence.
Yet, the question of Ursa’s future looms large. During a visit to Gabe’s house, they encounter his sister, Lacey, who turns them away. After several attempts, Ursa manages to get to Gabe, who has been battling a mental health episode. The trio grows closer, spending time together and sharing meals under the dim glow of candlelight.
Their camaraderie is disrupted when Ursa gets knocked unconscious by a falling branch. Despite the urgency, she pleads not to be taken to the hospital, even going as far as jumping out of the car to ensure her wish. Ursa insists that her powers caused the accident to keep Gabe around. This leads to a cozy night with all three sharing Jo’s bed. A visit from the police, prompted by a call from Lacey, unsettles the trio, with Ursa disappearing into the woods. Gabe, fearing legal repercussions, distances himself, although Jo suspects his reticence is rooted in fear of attachment.
In a moment of vulnerability, Gabe reveals to Jo that he’s never been intimate with a woman, and Jo responds with his first kiss. Gabe shares a traumatic childhood memory at a nearby cemetery, exposing the infidelity of his mother and his subsequent identity crisis. The budding romance between Jo and Gabe continues to bloom, with Ursa declaring it her fourth miracle. As Jo moves into the new rental house, she brings along Ursa and Gabe, helping him navigate social situations and offering solace by reading his mother’s poetry.
As Gabe confronts George, his biological father, he uncovers a complicated family history that was kept hidden from him. George’s request to marry Gabe’s widowed mother challenges Gabe to reconsider his feelings towards his family. Meanwhile, a mysterious encounter at a pizza place close to the unsettling gas station rattles Ursa, leading Jo to suspect foul play. Their suspicion proves correct when they are followed by an unknown car later that evening.
The peace of their night is shattered when two men attempt to break into their home. A shootout ensues, resulting in injuries to Jo and Ursa. As Ursa’s consciousness fades, Jo expresses her wish to adopt her. Ursa declares it as her fifth miracle, even as she prepares to “return to the stars”.
At the hospital, the reality of Ursa’s past unfolds, revealing her to be an eight-year-old girl named Ursa Ann Dupree, whose mother was tragically murdered. Amid a tumultuous battle with the police and social workers, Jo manages to secure the right to foster Ursa.
A month later, they hold a solemn funeral for Ursa’s mother and Little Bear. Ursa, though still maintaining her alien persona, concedes to portray herself as the human Ursa for the sake of moving forward. Jo, Gabe, Ursa, and two new kittens find their home in the rental house alongside Tabby. It’s a testament to Ursa’s claimed celestial influence bringing joy to those she cherishes.