A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
Published December 7th 2021 by Atria Books
Goodreads Summary: Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called “Pastoral,” this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.
Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.
Review: The first thing that drew me to this book was the author, Shea Ernshaw. I read and loved The Wicked Deep a few years back when it was published so I knew that she was an author I wanted to keep my eye on. The second thing that drew me to this book was the cover. The cover image is so haunting and beautiful, I just had to know what this book was about. The third and final thing that drew me to this book was the synopsis. Missing author and a mysterious commune in the middle of the woods?! Yes please.
When the book began I figured that the story would be following from Travis’s point of view for the duration but it didn’t take long for me to be proven wrong. We are then introduced to three characters living within Pastoral, the secret community in the woods: Theo, Calla, and Bee. Theo and Calla are married and Bee is Calla’s sister. Together they live in a farmhouse near the edge of the commune. Each of them has secrets they are trying to keep from each other but those secrets don’t last for long.
I don’t want to say too much about the story because I think honestly one of the best parts was being unsure of what was going on and what was going to happen next. It was such a puzzle to try and fit all of the pieces together about what happened to Travis and Maggie. And when those pieces began to be revealed… I was shocked by each and every one of them. The last third of the book is so full of twists and turns. I literally just finished the book a few minutes ago and wanted to start this review while my head was still spinning. So many “Aha” moments! One of the other really cool things about this book is you get little excerpts from the Foxtail book that Maggie St. James was famous for. It was incredibly eerie with how well it fit the surroundings of Pastoral. Shea Ernshaw did a fantastic job writing this book. Her words had a way of drawing me into the story and I felt as though I was in Pastoral, seeing and experiencing everything that the characters were experiencing. Especially with Bee’s character. Bee is blind and so you get to experience all of her other senses being heightened, mainly her sense of hearing and smell. I definitely see myself thinking about this book for quite some time.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.