Book Review

Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: December 7th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK 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.

WELL THAT WAS TWISTED.

If you have the option, definitely go with the full cast audio book. I’ve read Ershaw’s young adult books and liked the atmosphere, but often felt they were slow. Reading with the audio book helped speed things up and I think this was an awesome adult debut.

This story was wiiiiild. And so trippy. Started off really creepy and dove into things I didn’t see coming. I was actually blindsided by the twist at the end. An interesting choice, but I thought worked well in the case for the plot. Which is fine, I’m good with that. I thought there were plenty of likable characters. All of the main characters were easy to read their stories, I wanted to cheer for them and help them get out.

Very much bewitching, I liked the tidbits of magical realism too. It made sense and completed the story better than without those extra pieces. I liked this one soooo much better than her young adult books. This hooked me enough that I’m back to wanting to read whatever Ernshaw writes next. Always great writing, spooky atmosphere, and a small dash of romance and whimsy.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery / Magical Realism
  • Language: little
  • Romance: multiple vague open-ish door
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: suicide by overdose, grief/loss depiction, loss of a loved one, execution by hanging, physical altercations, manipulation and gaslighting

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