Cover Image: A History of Wild Places

A History of Wild Places

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Member Reviews

I received this from Netgalley.com.

"Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Finding the community of Pastoral and unraveling the mystery of what happened there reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another."

I really wanted to know more about Travis and his 'ability'. An okay read but I was disappointed, the mystery was too much of a very long slow-burn for what eventually happened.

2.75☆
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Absolutely amazing.  Definitely a top favorite read from 2021 for me.  It is best to go into this story blind.  The setting and atmosphere were perfect.  It was unsettling, slightly fairy-tale esque, and just a "what is going on" type of vibe that I just adore.  The reveals totally caught me by surprise and I hope this gets picked up for a mini series!!
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Shea Ernshaw's first foray into adult fiction does not disappoint!
This novel gives off The Village and The Devil All the Time vibes. There’s a missing macabre children’s book author, a man with a gift for finding people, a cult-like commune deep in the woods, a pox, multiple POVs and a very ominous tone throughout.  I can honestly say I didn’t see any of the twists coming and I thoroughly enjoyed myself the entire time. 

Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this novel.*
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Wow this book was a mind trip.  It's one of those type of novels that the less you know going in, the better the experience. It had been a bit since reading the synopsis and actually picking the book up to read and it wasn't what I was expecting.  I don't want to give spoilers so I'm going to say a good mystery that keeps the reader guessing with a few plot twists, some maybe predictable but a one or two that were a surprise.  Ernshaw had a way to draw you into the story. Her writing is submersive and makes you feel as if you are right there with the main characters. Pastoral is a wild place. This book would make an excellent pick for any book club. 

Thank you to @netgalley and @atriabooks for an e-galley copy..
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This book was initially very engaging and plot driven. I was curious about what had happened to Maggie and Travis and how that related to the commune, cult-city of Pastoral.

Maggie and Travis' back stories were interesting, suspenseful and got me to care about them as characters. Once the book transitioned to Theo, Calla and Bee in Pastoral the plot was drawn out and I got very bored. The theme of "these woods are scary" was repeatedly thrown at the reader to the point I wanted to tell the author "I get it." "We're supposed to be afraid of the woods".

Halfway through the book I contemplated DNFing it. I grew bored, impatient for the resolution and felt it was way too long. As a reader, the trope of not knowing what's going on, being confused or constant uncertainty is manageable for a short duration. 368 pages is too long to be left hanging on a limb. Finally about 65% of the way through the novel I became engaged again.

Shea Ernshaw's twist is the first of it's kind and I haven't read it before in any other novel. Her resolution and the epilogue were gratifying and tied up ends very nicely. I enjoyed the fact that the story continued past the heightened conflict scenes and reassured me as a reader. However this book needed more editing in the mid-section of the book. I would've preferred the book being edited down to 275-310 pages. 3.50 stars
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A History of Wild Places was a great book to get lost in, I was completely immersed in this story.  This is a book that gets better and better with each page.  As the suspense slowly builds you are in a constant dark and uneasy mood waiting for something to happen,  which you know is coming.  I just loved that!  That bleak and tragic “I don’t know if I want to know” feeling.  The writing alone was just perfect, atmospheric and vivid and you really get transported into the story.  Part mystery, fairy tale, fantasy and fiction, this would be the perfect book to read in a cabin in the woods.  Again, I went in blind with no expectations or bias and it was a great experience not knowing what to expect or where the story was heading.  Overall really impressed with this adult debut and loved all the mixed emotions I got.
4.5⭐️
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4.5 stars for this twisty thriller!

Macabre children's author Maggie St. James, disappears without a trace after controversy over her writing. Gifted Travis Wren is on her trail ---- only to disappear himself. 

At the center of both disappearances is Pastoral --- a community far off the grid and hidden from outsiders. The secrets of the community begin to take shape as the members start to work together to piece together clues that don't make sense and occurrences that may not be what they seem. 

This book was gripping, haunting, and thoroughly captivating until the very end. Its only once the characters begin to trust one another that they recognize each of the strengths. The shocking truth is finally revealed, but only after several wild twists.
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I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book and this is the first I’ve read of Shea Ernshaw. But in short, I’m a fan! This felt like a great intro into her writing. 

I loved the setting of Pastoral. The isolated community, the spooky surrounding forest, so good! The writing was beautiful. Super atmospheric. There was a darkness and unnerving energy to the whole story that was palpable. The story went places completely unexpected to me and I appreciate that feeling of being caught off guard. 

The ending was not my favorite but the majority of the story was still enjoyable so I’m not too bothered. And maybe it’s the horror lover in me but I would have liked to see this story pushed a bit further and go a bit darker. (But that’s me.) Mysteries always seem to be a bit hit or miss with me. This one is somewhere in the middle. But luckily I’m way more of a character focused reader and the amount of time Shea spent allowing us to really get to know the characters and feel the vibe of the community was lengthy and I loved that.👌

While this wasn’t a perfect read for me, I did really enjoy it and will for sure be picking up Shea’s future adult novels. I absolutely adored her writing style and am so interested to see what she does with her next one. 

I recommend this to anyone who loves mysteries, cultish vibes, spooky settings and slow burns. 

Thanks so much to @atriabooks and @netgalley for the digital arc 🖤 

📖 The History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw drops December 7th 2021 🌲
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A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES has been on my list of highly anticipated 2021 releases. I'm so grateful to NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to read this one before my pre-order arrived!

I was drawn in by the concept: a missing children's book author being sought out by a man with paranormal abilities, both somehow drawn into a commune (I immediately read "cult") that has mysterious circumstances that keeps its members from leaving its borders. Heck yes, I was ready to go all-in for it.

Part I was everything I hoped it would be. I was invested in Travis' story as he journeyed into the woods to find Maggie. He was a character I could get behind: sad, lonely and broken with a good heart. He had a traumatic past and was on the run from himself. A good solid Taylor Swift song of a man.

As I moved into Part II, I was interested in learning about the community of Pastoral and, more so, what culty happenings it entailed. The journeys of Theo, Calla and Bee took over and I kept hoping to circle back to Travis. These three characters didn't have the same depth that he did and I found myself having difficulty connecting to each of them. They struck me as more surface-level and predictable and I wished I knew them better. I wanted so badly to get back the magic of Part I, but I never felt it was regained. 

In the end, I wasn't completely sold on the final revelation that explained many of the aspects of Pastoral. It certainly was creative and I did not see it coming, but it didn't hit quite right for me. This said, I did enjoy the ending and how that all came back together. 

I loved the atmosphere that SHEA ERNSHAW created for the entirety of the book and could imagine the claustrophobia of Pastoral's residents. The mystery of it all kept me turning the pages, but I think the story could have benefitted from a faster pacing through the middle and more fleshing out of the main characters. ​I also wanted more depth in the cult aspect of the story with an examination of how the cult-like thinking impacted each of the characters and how that will shape their futures.

This was a fun read and I know that many will enjoy it. It wasn't quite everything I was looking for, but it was quite a ride and kept me guessing!
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Wow what an adventure! I loved every aspect of this book. 

The story starts with Travis Wren, someone to call to find people. He sets off to find a children’s author, Maggie St. James who has been missing for years. Travis is led to a community deep in the forest called Pastoral and suddenly he goes missing as well. 

This book had me on the edge of my seat the ENTIRE time. There was always some new information to try to price together. I discovered the ending before the book revealed it, but I still found it very fun to read. 

I’m so fascinated by cults so this book was so interesting to me! I couldn’t get enough.
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This one was nuts. Three stories. First: man trying to find a missing children's book author who disappeared into the woods. Second: couple living in a wooded commune wondering if the world "out there" is as dangerous as they've been told. Third: girl find herself pregnant and unwanted by the father...what are her next steps? Told from alternating time lines and points of view, this was a crazy read. If you are into someting like Station Eleven, this might be for you.
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When author Maggie St. James goes missing, her parents hire Travis Wren to search for her. Travis has a talent for finding missing persons, and in his quest to find Maggie, he finds more than he ever bargained for: the near-fabled town of Pastoral.

This book was incredible! The first few chapters with Travis painted such a vivid picture that I was hooked right away. The way that everything was described was so detailed and clear, I felt like I was right there with Travis, and later on Theo, Calla, and Bee. The town of Pastoral is such an interesting premise, a place where you live off the land and trust it to give you what you need. Shea Ernshaw painted such a vivid atmosphere that was dark and light at the same time. I felt such a sense of foreboding; this book kind of reminds me of the movie Midsommar in that the beautiful town of Pastoral had such dark secrets. The mystery of what happened kept me guessing all the way to the end.

I highly recommend this book!
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As I was reading this book I didn't see how the title fit with the story until I finished it. Then I got it and it makes sense now. By the summary you think this is a sort of detective story about a missing woman and the hired man with special sight to find her. But it was so much more and different than what you would expect going into it.  It is a story of lost people, but not in the traditional sense. people who are lost in the world of life and need something different, a change of pace.  I'd say some of this story has truth to it and we have seen this type of change people have sought throughout history. Sometimes ending ok and others times they have been led to their deaths while looking for something wholesome to believe in or following a path created by a religious fanatic.  This story reminds me a lot of those truths.  Shea Ernshaw weaves a tale unlike anything she has written before, a Adult story but I would find it suitable in the YA section as well. It tells of love, truths, lies, betrayal, belonging.  While it is a different type of story from her previous writing's, I believe this one puts Shea Ernshaw up there as a great writer of Adult Fiction just as well as her previous made her a great ya author, it shows us   she can do multiple genre's.  And the title fits once you finish it and think over the entire story.  I'd like to thank NetGalley for allowing me this arc to read and this review is my own thoughts of this story.
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A History of Wild Places is a book that will make you question everything. It delves into the lies and truths we tell ourselves at night. The ones we can't seem to utter out loud because we aren't sure if they will sound true. There's an immediate sense of suspense and tension from the beginning. My favorite element of Ernshaw's past YA books (The Wicked Deep & Winterwood) has been the atmosphere, so I knew I'd be in for a treat. Not only that, but A History of Wild Places has some truly lyrical writing in some moments.

It's a book about the stories we make up within the spaces between words. Beginning with the premise of objects telling a story. How these dust laden fragments of memories expose clues to our past, I was hooked. From the synopsis alone, we know that these lives will fade into shadows, but we read Maggie and Travis' POV without that knowledge. I already knew from the beginning I wouldn't be able to stop reading. And this current really never let me go.
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For her third book, Shea Ernshaw has once again taken us deep into the woods to tell her story, creating an evocative, deeply atmospheric world with her poetic and lyrical way with words. As this is her first adult book, I was curious how this style of writing would transfer over from her YA novels. I was a huge fan of The Wicked Deep and similarly loved Winterwood, so while I was confident that she would deliver yet another story that was deeply effective, I was curious how the experience would change with the audience. And it certainly has - the stakes are higher, the plot thickens, and the events that transpire seem more real - as real as a hypnotic commune deep in the woods can be, that is. I found the imagery of Pastoral that she had written on paper expand wildly in my mind, with a deep sense of community but also uneasiness. There is nothing about this society that she has created that does not fill me with some sort of discomfort, even if I am not always able to place where that discomfort stems from. From the beginning of the story, the reader is aware that something is  amiss, and that over the course of the story, we will eventually be able to piece together exactly what that is.

As the plot progressed, I found my mind desperately trying to figure out what the intentions were with the characters, and also trying to solve some sort of mystery - but I didn't even know what mystery I was trying to solve. Were the people of Pastoral simply paranoid about the potential of bringing rot into their community, fed by years of avoiding the outside world and assisted by the gentle reassurance of their leader that they were in the safest place they could possibly be? Or was there a strange magical element, that the trees were actually splitting apart due to some unknown virus, potentially being able to spread it to unsuspecting community members? For the longest time I suspected that they were all being poisoned, using naturally occurring strange coincidences as catalysts to feed into their fear of the woods. It turns out I wasn't that far off and was right to assume that the person who encourages everyone to leave things alone is conspiring to control their whole society, but I certainly didn't expect the full details of the story to come out as they did. This I probably should have expected, realising now that Shea plays the same mind games both in The Wicked Deep and Winterwood. In both of those instances I could always tell when something was wrong, but the solutions I came up with in my mind, while certainly plausible and in the same vein as actual occurring events, were also far removed from where the plot of the story would eventually go. Even at the very end, when most plot points and Easter eggs had been revealed and wrapped up, the final fates of the main characters surprised me, and I realised that I may have missed the whole point of their journey over the course of the story after all. 

To be perfectly honest, this is probably my least favourite of the author's books, but I wouldn't say that should deter you from reading A History of Wild Places at all. It's simply a different type of Shea Ernshaw book, meant for a different audience of readers, and the subject matter will reflect that. I do think that the author has done an excellent job at shifting her audience to a more mature subject, but keeping her signature atmospheric prose and her ability to plunge her readers into the story as if they were also there experiencing it. I have seen many people so far state that this is their favourite book of hers, which just goes to show that while personal preference is clearly the cause of our difference of opinions, we can all agree that Shea is a wonderful writer, and she continues to envelop and keep her audience interested in her writing. I continue to be a massive fan, and will continue to read the rest of her books as long as she keeps writing them.
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✨ARC Review✨

“I wonder if the things we don’t say are worse than the lies we do. Like the illness, they will rot us from the inside out.” 

Travis Wren, aka “the last resort”, has a gift. He can touch objects and see the lives of people. This becomes incredibly useful in searching for missing people. He is on the hunt to figure out what happened to Maggie St. James, the children’s author who disappeared. Was Maggie a missing person who didn’t want to be found? Was Travis barking up the wrong tree? As quickly as Travis starts to figure out the truth, one missing person turns into two…

What I Loved: 
-the overall dark and atmospheric feel of this book, and the understanding that nothing is as it seems 
-an entanglement of manipulation, misplaced trust, secrets, lies, love, lust, and resentment 
-stories within stories (Travis searching for Maggie, then a shift to Theo, Calla, Bee, and Levi) (also the chapters that contain excerpts from Maggie’s book)
-The concept of Pastoral. Is it a commune or a cult? The belief of the “rot” (elm pox, sickness plaguing the people if they leave past the boundary)

I have to admit that I was a tad worried when I first started this because I was unsure what direction things were going in. The beginning zeroes in on Travis looking into Maggie’s disappearance and then things shift to start talking about Theo, Calla, and Bee at Pastoral and it seems confusing as it’s a sudden shift. I was also confused on how the chapters with excerpts  of Maggie’s book fit in. However, the connections start to fit together like puzzle pieces, and then things move at a fast pace, constantly keeping the reader hooked. Trust me when I say to stick with this and finish it! The cover is aesthetically pleasing and will draw you in, but the story is mind bending, and ultimately sucks you in an all encompassing way and doesn’t let go. 

✨Rating✨
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

A special thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for this eARC! A History Of Wild Places is out December 7th!
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
"A History of Wild Places" by Shea Ernshaw was an intense psychological thriller about lies & how far one person in power would go to preserve them.
This story pulled me immediately & held my interest throughout. 
It was atmospheric & mysterious. 
The characters were interesting & I liked that the story was told by multiple characters. 
The author did a good job of tying the story together.
Shea Ernshaw was a new author for me but, I'll definitely be checking out more of her work.
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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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