Blogmas Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

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.

Book Cover

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved Ernshaw’s two YA novels, so when I heard she was publishing an adult novel, I was incredibly excited. I have to say, it did not disappoint.
The story starts off following Travis who is looking for a missing woman. Travis is grieving the death of his sister who recently committed suicide. He’s not in a super great place. So, when his longtime friend asks him to take on one more case of trying to find a missing woman, it takes some convincing to get him to help. You see, Travis can see memories within objects. So, he follows the path that Maggie took and it leads him to Pastoral. Pastoral is a town in the middle of the woods that most people don’t even know exist. The people in this town live off the land and never leave their town. The story changes a bit from here. We follow Calla, Theo, and Bee who all live in Pastoral and have lived there for many years.
I have to say that the switch from Travis’s point of view to the alternating points of view of Calla, Theo, and Bee was a little jarring. I totally see why the author did this the way that she did. But I liked Travis and I was immediately invested in his story and following him while he searched for Maggie. Though, I think the changing of the points of view did a great job of creating suspense and mystery because it really left me wondering what happened to Travis after he found Pastoral. I liked Theo right away. He pushed the boundaries of what was “acceptable” for their community. And though he kept it a secret, his wife, Calla, knew that something was up with him. I didn’t really like Calla until she and Theo were finally on the same page. I liked her once the two of them were working together. Bee was my favorite. Bee is Calla’s sister and all three of them live together in the farmhouse that Bee and Calla grew up in. Bee is blind, her vision disappeared when she was younger. But because of that, her other senses are heightened. This fact is exaggerated to almost make it seem like Bee has magic. I think I liked Bee the most because she pushed boundaries and spoke her mind. She wasn’t a super likable character, always abrasive and doing what she needed to to help herself with what she was going through.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it. I think if you enjoyed Ernshaw’s previous two books, you’ll like this one too. It’s a winding story that builds and builds before it spills all of its secrets. The setting of Pastoral was a fascinating one and the characters were a group that I easily found myself invested in. I will be looking forward to more adult works from this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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