Cover Image: A History of Wild Places

A History of Wild Places

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Member Reviews

This is an intense psychological thriller about lies and how far one person in power will go to preserve them.

It all begins with a missing woman, Maggie St. James.  An author of some dark children's books, she sets off in the woods, for what, we don't know.  After 5 years, Travis Wren is brought in for his special abilities to track people (he has visions of one's activities after touching personal items).  From there, the story switches POVs to a family living in a remote part of the woods, a community named Pastoral.  

If you have seen M. Night Shyamalan's movie, the Village, that is the vibe of this community.  The citizens of this community have been taught to fear things like the trees that surround them, and more importantly, what lies beyond them.  After several citizens go beyond the boundary and get sick, they are convinced that the outside world only brings death.  Given that they witnessed, I could understand their hesitancy to challenge the rules.  But three citizens do just that - Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister Bee.

How do these three characters tie to the missing woman?  It wasn't clear at first.  But slowly, the behavior of the three had me questioning everything.  When small clues about Maggie and Travis begin to appear, that is when the three decide to take action.  While I had my suspicions about their connection to Maggie, I would never have put together what these three went through in Pastoral, very disturbing.

The author did a good job of tying the story together and providing reasons behind the lies, twisted as they were.  And I thought the ending, while a bit unexpected, made sense.

This was a new-to-me author, but I'll definitely be checking out more of her work.
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This story pulled me immediately and held my interest throughout. It was atmospheric and mysterious, and kept me wondering what was really going on. The characters were interesting and I liked that the story was told by multiple characters. The twist was timed perfectly and the ending was surprising for me. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.
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Ernshaw's A History of Wild Places is the perfect fall or winter read. It is mysterious and haunting and slightly fantastical. This story is really unlike anything else I have ever read. Deep in the woods of norther California, Ernshaw is waiting to sweep you away into a world of secrets and lies. 

Travis Wren was hired for his unique ability to find people. His mission? To track down Maggie St. James, a young author who disappeared 5 years ago.
The people of Pastoral have lived in peace and seclusion for many years, until one community member stumbles across a stranger truck and begins to ask questions. 

Ernshaw's atmospheric writing style shines in A History of Wild Places. She has an incredible talent for bringing a place to life with her lyrical prose and that is certainly true of this book. Pastoral seems to seep off the page and pull the reader into a community where the earth is both friend and foe and neighbors are too close to keep secrets from - or so it seems. 

As the mysteries begin to unravel throughout this story, the tension builds. Information is given to the reader at really nice intervals to keep interest without giving anything away too soon. I felt constantly engaged and eager to uncover the next bit of information. There were some elements I was able to figure out on my own from the clues presented and some turns that completely shocked me. The ominous atmosphere was near-palpable, making this book difficult to put down. 

This book is a bit outside of my typical genre (YA fantasy), but as a fan of Ernshaw's writing, I really wanted to see what this one was going to be like and I am really glad that I did. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys mystery novels with paranormal elements and dark themes.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Atria Books, and author Shea Ernshaw for an opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Travis Wren has been tasked with finding missing author Maggie St. James using his unique talent. His journey to find Maggie leads him to Pastoral, a quiet community founded in the 70's whose inhabitants enjoy a simple life in the secluded forest. Not long after discovering Pastoral, Travis also disappears. 

Fast forward a couple years, and we meet Theo, who has lived in Pastoral his entire life. No one is allowed outside the border of Pastoral, but Theo can't help himself and wanders down the path, only to find an abandoned truck. Not wanting to scare his wife, Calla, or her sister, Bee, Theo begins keeping secrets. Little does he know Calla and Bee have a few secrets of their own. 

I have to say I don't know exactly what I expected of this one but it was beyond anything I could have imagined, in the best way possible! I really loved the writing and was dying to know what secrets Pastoral was hiding. I've seen this book compared to M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village," and I have to say that feels pretty spot on. 

A History of Wild Places will be on bookshelves near you December 7, 2021!
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SE really excels at atmospheric storytelling. I can guarantee you will feel as if you are living inside a mysterious compound, hidden deep in the dark woods, while reading this. 

And I'm so grateful for that because even though the biggest mystery of the plot is super predictable, I found that I honestly didn't mind. And it's because of how much I was enjoying experiencing the setting. It's definitely the highlight of the story. 

For SE's first adult book, I think this is a pretty great start. Some elements of her writing and characterisation still feel very YA, but I'm excited to see if she continues to embrace more mature themes and write more adult books in the future.
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Solid 4.5 here! This book instantly sucked me in with the mystery plot of Travis searching for Maggie St.James. You are quickly swept away to Pastoral-a place where strange things happen. Without giving away too many spoilers, about halfway through, I was starting to get frustrated-I felt like this "side-lined" plot was taking over the book and I wanted to get back to the Travis and Maggie plot line...but everything ended up working out and my mind was spinning by the end. The writing is very well done and this is a book that I can truthfully say is a new plot line...although if I had to compare it to something, I would say it gave me Hazel Wood vibes.

*Thank you Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*
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We all have parts of ourselves that we keep hidden from others: our shame, fears, and secrets; our hopes and love; our opinions, needs, and desires. We tell lies, and hold back our emotions. We do it to protect ourselves; to avoid vulnerability or unmasking. However, the person we may be lying to the most is ourself. Are we the person others see, are we the person we think we are? Do our stories—told and untold—contain the truth? In a History of Wild Places, we gladly go down the rabbit hole with the characters of this book to find the answers.
Travis Wren is hired to find the children’s author Maggie St. James who has been missing for a few years. Travis has a gift: by touching something belonging to the person he is searching for, he can get “after images” of their movements. This leads Travis to the guard house at Pastoral, founded in 1972 on the principles of “seeking purpose and reinventing life”. 

In the hidden commune Pastoral, the residents are self-sufficient; they do not rely on anything—or anyone. Levi, their young and charismatic leader, makes sure that the three rules of Pastoral are adhered to: 1) Privacy (within and outside its borders, everyone has the right to live their own lives); 2) Community (the community is stronger and safer together); and 3) Trust (without it the community falls apart). His main tactic in enforcing the rules is fear of the disease beyond the tree line, and the possibility that there is no longer a world outside of their boundaries.

Our story centers on three people from Pastoral: Theo, Calla, and Bee. Theo is the night watchman at the guard post where his job is to keep outsiders out, and residents in. He finds Travis’ abandoned truck which has a picture of Maggie St. James in it. He becomes curious of what became of these two people, and is tempted to find out what is beyond the trees. Calla is married to Theo. Unlike him, she is content to stay within the rules, and becomes fearful of what Theo’s curiosity may do to their marriage and community. Living with them is Calla’s younger sister, Bee who became blind as a teenager. Bee is very attuned to nature, and is having a secret relationship with Levi. When Calla becomes aware of Theo and Bee’s secrets, she is faced with the dilemma of choosing whom she will betray: lying and thereby betraying the rules of the community, or informing Levi and  betraying her loved ones. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The shifting points of view allowed us to see how different characters experienced the same events, and how they chose (usually by lying) to deal with them. We fall through the rabbit hole with Calla, Bee, and Theo as they are confronted with the lies, the secrets, and the fears they tell and keep to themselves and to others. I highly recommend this book.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This book was one of those perfect books at the perfect time. I wanted something eerie, atmospheric, and unsettling and this one absolutely delivered. 

I won't go too much into the plot because it's kind of best not to know a ton about it, but if you like cult stories where things aren't quite what they seem add this to your TBR ASAP. 

I loved how the author unraveled the story and gave you small pieces of the puzzle at a time. I stayed up past my bedtime reading this one because I just couldn't put it down. 

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WOW. I was sucked in right now to this story and the mesmerizing character who trailed the missing author. Then, it switched to 2 new character POVs - which gave an inside perspective of the commune and reveals lots of dark twists. I'm still letting this story sink in, but it's so different in a good way.
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Three residents of what appears to be an idealistic, peaceful commune disappear investigate the disappearance of two outsiders. 

Travis Wren is an investigator with a unique talent for finding people with only a single object. He takes the case of Maggie St. James, a well known author who is famous fir her creepy children’s stories. The case leads him to an isolated community call Pastoral; a place thought to be the stuff of myths.

This secluded commune was founded in 1970 by a group of people with a desire for a simple sort of life. Travis disappears shortly after he wanders upon it, similarly to Maggie St. James.

Years pass by Theo a member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s truck at the edge of the community. No one is allowed in or out of the community for fear of “the rot”; a disease that eats you from the inside out and is highly contagious. Theo, his wife Calla, and her blind sister Bee get tangled up in the mystery of the disappearances and the dark secrets that shatter the image of their perfect isolated world.

Told in alternating chapters, I enjoyed the mystery of the disappearances as well as the sinister truth behind the commune and its members.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this arc.
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When I first picked this book up I thought it might be a spooky read, instead I was surprised by a thriller/mystery novel. Our story opens as Travis sets out to find a maligned children's book author, Maggie St. James. Travis has the unique gift of seeing memories in objects, a gift that has helped him find missing people over the years.....dead or alive. When Travis sets out to find Maggie he thinks this will be his last job, but as he stumbles into the community of Pastoral he may find more then he bargains for. 

I thought this part of the story was very easy to figure out and draw conclusions about the characters and where the story was going. However, I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the third act twist I didn't see coming. This book really focuses on the lengths people are willing to go to protect that sense of community. I will say the plot of the book did remind me a bit of The Village, but with a better and more satisfying ending.
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Beautifully written, I think "A history of wild places" is a big metaphor for why a person joins and stays in a cult in real life. 
Here are some moments of the book:
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I found this to be quite an interesting book. It had many twists and turns. The children's books written by Bee in her prior life were quite terrifying. Made me think of the Slender Man who I had never heard of before until two young girls in our state attempted to murder a friend as a sacrifice to him. It was hard for me to picture Levi being able to control all the people in the community once I finished the book. However, everything was quite believable while I was reading it.
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She’s Ernshaw is my favorite author hands down. When I heard about this book being adult and more out of her comfort zone, I said sign me up! I did enjoy the book. Really. But, honestly I love her YA books a bit more. Sometimes I felt like it was a lot of information being thrown out (specially in the start.) I’ll definitely add this to my staff recs endcap!
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A mystery within a mystery. A psychic people finder goes looking for  a children's book author and ends up at a commune called Pastoral.  The focus then shifts to years later and the inhabitants of Pastoral.  They believe that their haven within the tree line keeps them safe and free of the disease and danger outside the tree line.  They live off the earth and the skills of their community without any of the modern conveniences.  is there a bogeyman past the woods? Is there anything left out there? Are any of the people in Pastoral immune to the disease in the trees and have some of them made it past the tree line? The dynamic between Theo, his wife Calla and Calla's sister is edgy.  I won't say more for fear of spoiling the book.
Scary, futuristic and a sure bet for fans of Grimm's fairy tales, LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, and SORROWLAND or other cult stories.  My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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Absolutely wonderful book. Beautifully written and perfectly suspenseful, enough to keep me from putting it down. I loved it so so much, thank you for the opportunity to read it early!
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This. Was. Amazing!!  A little mystery, thriller, and The Village wrapped up in one. Maggie went missing five years ago, and the only person who can find her is a man who is able to track missing people by the objects they once held. 

I’ve already recommended it to one friend, and will be highly recommending it to more friends.
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I don't know where to start with how much I loved this book! I read the second half of it in one sitting, because I just couldn't stop. I'm a big fan of Shea Ernshaw's YA novels, and I was so thrilled that I enjoyed her first adult novel even more. Her writing drew me in from page one and never let me go. When the POV shifts towards the beginning from Travis's to Theo, Calla, and Bee's, I was thinking "Noooo, go back!" because I was so invested in his character and plot line. But then as soon I started the section from these new characters' POVs, I was totally sucked into their world too. The author is brilliant at writing mysteries and dropping little clues for the reader along the way. I kept guessing at certain things and feeling like I was getting closer and closer to figuring everything out, but I definitely did not figure out the big twist until right before it was revealed. Her writing is also so wonderfully atmospheric. It made me feel like I was right there in this setting, even though I've never been anywhere like this in real life. I know I'll be dying to read anything Shea Ernshaw writes in the future, whatever the genre!

(Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an eARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.)
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Shea Ernshaw's previous books were amazing, and I was so excited when I heard that she was coming out with an adult novel!

A History of Wild Places brings out Ernshaw's signature spooky fantastical horror and cozy atmospheric vibes, which is something that I adore from her previous works!

The biggest downfall of this book for me was the fact that I wasn't attached to any of the characters. I was kinda bored reading about their everyday lives, and I ultimately didn't care what happened to them. I also wasn't the biggest fan of one of the plot twists *spoiler* where Bee, who is blind, finds out that she was never actually blind. It just felt like one of those plot twists where the disabled character is magically fixed by the end and that didn't really sit well with me.*end spoiler*.

I do think that this book did have a lot going for it and I think it is still worth the read if it interests you, or if you enjoy really character-driven stories!
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OHHH. What a fun read. Who doesn't love a book about a secluded cult living in the middle of nowhere? The book starts with children's author Maggie disappearing and Travis, a kind of private eye, hired to find her. Then they both go missing and the story takes you inside the secluded community: Pastoral. You follow the three main characters: husband and wife Theo and Calla and Calla's blind sister, Bea. Deeper into the story the secrets of Pastoral are revealed. This was a fun book I had a hard time putting down.
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