Cover Image: A History of Wild Places

A History of Wild Places

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A History of Wild Places captivated me from the first page. Travis has a gift of seeing memories by touching an object. He can see the images of other people and their lives, which makes him gifted at finding missing people. He goes into the woods in search of a mysterious writer, and they both disappear there. 

The remainder of the story involves the commune Pastoral. A peaceful place but huddle in fear of what is in the forest. A pox, a sickness. 

This story reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" - so much so that was often what I was picturing while I was reading. Anyone who likes the slow burn of suspense would love this, I could not put it down! The characters were deep and the twists shocking. I'd highly recommend this to friends and patrons.
Was this review helpful?
I love a story involving a cult and this one was a really interesting concept. The entire book had a lingering spooky feeling. The writing is incredible and I loved the way the cult lifestyle was presented and finally separated from living in the wilderness. How sometimes good things can come out of bad stuff.
Was this review helpful?
I don't usually read books like this. I read so few of them, as a matter of fact, that I don't even have a shelf for them. They just get lumped in with my general fiction. But, I'll say it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more of this author. I liked the writing style, which managed to be both simple and literary at the same time. Earnshaw drew me in with beautiful lines like "Silence can hold a thousand untold stories" and "Death has a way of leaving breadcrumbs...". At its heart, "A History of Wild Places" is a mystery. When I started reading I thought it would be a missing persons sort of mystery: your loner detective searches for a missing woman and you are shown glimpses of his story interspersed with hers. And it is that. But it's also more. It has Children of the Corn vibes with some literary fiction and M. Night Shyamalan. Just when you think you've figured out where the story is taking you, it's been going in a different direction the whole time.

If you love a good mystery, a little bit of weirdness, characters who are flawed and human, you'll like this. If you want to compare it to something, it's more The Only Good Indians than Stephen King. I think even if you're not a fan of the genre, you'll still find something to enjoy.
Was this review helpful?
A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES was creepy and weird....but in all the best ways! I love how eerily atmospheric the cult setting was, how the story keeps just enough to itself to beckon us deeper into this twisted world that defies the confines of a single genre. It spins us around, confuses us, sends us down a new rabbit hole, and then does it all again, but by the end, we're caught in a deliciously dark web of schemes and mysteries and missing people. Of places that both exist and don't. I absolutely loved how different  of a read it was, and enjoyed following Travis (the MC) as he unravels what's happened in Pastoral. Where did it all go wrong?

A History of Wild Places slowly pulls you into its pages to find the answers, which are not at all what they first seem.
Was this review helpful?
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫4.5/5 

This book is a very atmospheric, intense, dark read. This story is somewhat sad, depressing, and disturbing at times. I was hooked from the beginning-at about 60% in it slowed down a bit-then picked back up at about 80% in.

We are first introduced to Travis Wren who helps police & families find missing people. He was hired to help solve the disappearance of Maggie St. James, an author of dark macabre chilren’s books, who just up and vanished. Wren is somewhat of a depressing character-as he is feeling alone, depressed and guilty because he couldn’t save his own sister from committing suicide. 

Wren tries to track down the last steps of Maggie St. James. As he follows her last steps he comes across Pastoral-a hidden and reclusive community cut off from the outside world. As Wren  passes the boarder into Pastrol his life changes will never be the same-and another story begins to unfold. 

We meet Theo, his wife Calla, and Calla’s sister Bee-who is blind. We follow all three characters alternating POVs throughout the book-their background, present, & the secrets they are keeping from each other & the community.

Levi, Pastrol’s leader, refuses to let anyone leave the community as he claims a deadly contagious disease, Pox, is just beyond the boarder effecting the trees, and everything beyond the boarders of their safe knit community. 

Not everything is as it seems in this peaceful community, & not everyone is who they say they are. Secrets are uncovered, the truth is brought to the surface, and we begin to question each characters behavior, especially Levi-the leader of Pastrol. 

Is there really a deadly disease? Will they really die if they step over the boarder? Can they trust each other, themselves, their leader? Is Levi really trying to protect the community, or is something far more sinister going on? 

What ever happened to Travis Wren and Maggie St. James? 



The author does such a great job at tying together the flow of the story effortlessly from past, present, & multiple POVs. This is a slower paced read, yet it kept me engaged and wanting to find out all the answers from the first few chapters. 

I will say that I was able to guess the major twist about half way through, but there was a lot of unanswered questions so I was happy to read on as the twists and secrets were revealed. 

The characters had so much depth which really connected me to each of them. The buildup was nice and slow, but intense and very atmospheric. The ending came together nicely and left me feeling satisfied with the conclusion. 

What a captivating mystery read this was with such a strong, unique plot and well developed characters!

Read this is your  enjoy/like:
-a slow burn
-intense buildup
-dark, atmospheric, haunting books
-strong well developed plot & characters 
-a book that will keep you engaged from start to finish
-a book to keep you up at night reading
-if you enjoyed the movie The Village or the tv show The Sinner because this book gave me vibes of each of those!!
Was this review helpful?
WOW. This was a captivating, haunting read with a twist that, even though I kind of saw it coming, was EXCELLENT. 

I read this book in two days--something almost unheard of for me as of late. I've been in a huge slump, but the minute I picked up A History of Wild Places, it was like I was compelled to move forward with every chapter. The framing of the narrative with the creepy children's stories was absolutely fantastic, and led to a horror/thriller/suspense vibe. I really think Ernshaw's found her place in the writing world, and she's a fabulous adult fiction writer. I'll be recommending this book to patrons asap.
Was this review helpful?
A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by 
Shea Ernshaw✨

Rating: 2.5-3🌟
Five years after Maggie St. James goes missing, her parents hire Travis Wren to search for her. Travis has a talent for finding missing people, and his search leads him to an abandoned barn where he goes missing as well. 

In high school I had to write an entire paper on magical realism — where I discovered that I really wasn’t a fan. This one sounded eerie and interesting, but I probably should have done more research before I picked it up. 

Read this one if you like 
- Magical realism 
- Dark, Eerie, Atmospheric reads 
- “cult” vibes

This book features Multi-POV and relatively short chapters. This one is hard to talk about without going into spoilers, and I thought about DNF-ing it the entire time I was reading it. Although I’m glad I stuck it through because the end really picked up. I’ve seen lots of people rave abut this book and call it the best of the year — and I wish I could have enjoyed it the same.
Was this review helpful?
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late December.

The story's narration switches hands many times: Travis' narrative voice is very dark, rustic, and seems to see only the shadow of something, which is fitting for his work as a finder of lost people; Theo, however, is wistful, romantic, and complacent, up until he looks into Travis' disappearance while on the trail of his last find; and Calla, Theo's wife, moves and thinks like worrisome silk and is protective of her blind sister, Bee, whose hypersensory memories are keen and strong. Gradually, each person spirals out of control and fear the influence of the outside world & its perhaps ill intent upon their insular lives.
Was this review helpful?
This was such a great book! I loved the twists and turns. The characters were mysterious but you felt like you knew them
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to love this novel. The premise was *so* unbelievably up my alley. I love anything whimsical cults and communes; combine that with a good mystery and you've got me sold. Unfortunately I really, really didn't enjoy this title. The prose was so purple that it slowed the book down to an absolute crawl.  Every other sentence was a simile (notorious of purple prose) to the point that it was infuriating. It was so flowery, which I'm sure is someone's thing but when you're trying to tell me a high-takes cult-centered mystery, the flowery prose doesn't add to the drama it just makes it boring. I got around halfway through this book where I had to start skimming or else I was going to just DNF it.  TLDR: the idea is AMAZING--and maybe the audiobook would be better because the vocal performance could really make the flowery writing work--but the writing style and pacing killed this novel for me.
Was this review helpful?
2.5

Well, I think I'm going to keep my thoughts on this one short, as it's really just personal reasons and expectations as to why this didn't work for me, and most of those reasons are spoiler filled fodder. If you're planning on reading this book, I humbly recommend the audio version if you enjoy that format, as the narration was a splendid production.

The beginning of the book really hooked me, so much so that I thought this would result in an easy 5 stars for me to give. We follow Travis as he is using his special sense of connecting with objects that people have touched to track down missing author Maggie, who seemingly fell off the earth at a certain point. His POV goes abruptly dead, and we don't hear from Travis's narration again after.

Next, we jump to an off the grid community called Pastoral that is led by a man named Levi, and we follow the POV of Theo, his wife Calla (I think this was her name?), and Bee, Calla's sister. Bee is blind and can hear unborn baby's heartbeats and other things that help the community, as they cannot leave to go to town because of a disease from the surrounding forest called The Rot. Also, the rain is bad and you don't want to get caught out in it.

I can't really give anything else without spoiling, but once we hit the Pastoral transition, I guessed one of the major plot twists immediately, because it was just so obvious from the set up and clues immediately given. Maybe if we'd had a little time to separate the beginning portion from the next section, our brains would have forgotten what had just happened and it would have been more surprising? Also, the big twist as to what's going on in Pastoral and the mystery surrounding it all was not what I was hoping for at all. I was expect layers of fantasy, horror, or at least magical realism, and the explanation behind everything felt like a let down for me. If you can keep an open mind and are ok with the pieces not quite fitting together, you should give this one a try for yourself.
Was this review helpful?
A History of Wild Places
Author, Shea Ernshaw
Pub date: 12.7.21

Thank you Atria books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this e- arc!

What a wild and slow- burn of a twisty novel! Written with patience and mystery, A History of Wild Places takes the reader on an absorbing and atmospheric journey through a dark and haunting story that has you questioning everything you thought you understood. 

In truth, I forgot that I requested to read this one. So, I completely went in blind and I am so happy that I did! It definitely made for a better reading experience as this is not a genre that I typically read. I was absolutely engrossed in the wilderness of this wild place and read late into night to understand what happened to Maggie St. James. 
 
Maggie is a well- known author of a unique children's book series that simply vanished one day. Travis Wren, a quiet and solitary man, has an unusual talent- he can simply touch an object owned by a person and is able to envision their experience and understand more about them, which can help him locate missing people. Hired as a last resort, Maggie's father hired Travis in one last attempt to search for Maggie. As soon as he feels that he may find be getting closer to the mystery of Maggie's disappearance, Travis also vanishes. 

Seven years later, in a remote community called Pastoral that was founded in the 1970's by people who were searching for a simpler way of life, Theo discovers an abandoned truck beyond the restricted borders of the community. The borders are there for a reason- to prevent the community of Pastoral from a disease that lays just beyond- the borders are there for their protection. What follows is the unraveling of Theo's discovery of Travis' investigation into Maggie's disappearance that he, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, begin to slowly uncover in this shocking and wild story. 

A History of Wild Places is magical realism with a twist of mystery, suspense, and psychological thrill that will keep you immersed until the very shocking end. 4.5 stars!
Was this review helpful?
4.75 stars.

Eerie, creepy, and mesmerizing. I love weird books that I can totally get lost in. For some it's totally frustrating to not understand what is going on throughout the story, but I love that. Something about that confusion just completely hooks me. This book had suspense, the confusion factor, and a cult setting. I was in heaven. The less you know going into this one, the better.

Everything about this book was mind-bending. The setting was wonderfully atmospheric with a lot of creepy vibes. It was at once a bit post-apocalyptic and a little colonial. It's a perfectly dark read and the plot is incredibly twisty. There is a great mix of genre bits as well. A little bit horror, a little bit scifi, a touch of magical realism, and a lot of suspense.

The writing is fantastic, with a way about it that just gripped me. This was one of those reads that kept me up late as I devoured page after page, not wanting to put it down. A lot of fun and a good, solid ending. I'll be reading more of Shea Ernshaw's work for certain!

* Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Travis has a knack for finding missing people. Touching an item of theirs allows him to trace the person he is seeking, seeing their last journey. When he is asked to find Maggie St James, a children's author who writes dark fairy tales, he wants to refuse. He is still recovering from the overdose death of his sister and still grieving. However, he owes the person asking, so he takes the case. He would become another missing person.

The book takes us to a community called Pastoral, a place that had started many years before. A place off the grid where people could live off the land, a quiet place of like minded people. A place of secrets and refuge. We meet the members, get to know many. What is this community hiding?

Intense in parts, suspenseful and a slow unwinding of a story where things are not what they seem.
The slowness of the story is necessary so that one gets to know the inhabitants, walk with them through their daily lives. Lives that are not what they seem. The answers requires a suspension of belief but fitting I think and not totally unbelievable. A good book, one with a different storyline of a place that was once magical and could beagain. Also, a book that shows how the quest for power is so often abused with devastating results.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

~4.5 stars.  Once I got into it I didn't want to put it down so I could see if my guesses were correct and see how everything else wrapped up.  I did have to put this book down for a few days at the beginning because there was a lot of tension in it, and I just came off of reading a book with a lot of tension, after a semester of a lot of stress and tension and I needed to relax! I don't usually read suspense but I had just read "The Wicked Deep" earlier this year so I thought I would give it shot.  I feel like the title might be a little misleading as "A History of...." does not seem like the beginning of a fiction book.
Was this review helpful?
"A History of Wild Places" is an atmospheric, original story that kept me captivated throughout. Although the ending felt a little abrupt, I really enjoyed the world created by Ernshaw and easily recommend it to others. Give it a shot!
Was this review helpful?
This book really surprised me! It was suspenseful, moody, and full of twists. I would describe the genre as mystery with a little bit of magical realism sprinkled in. The book begins with a man named Travis Wren, a person who has a skill for finding lost or missing people. An author or dark children's books named Maggie St. James has been missing for five years, and Travis gets asked to use his talent to find her. 

Fast forward a few years and we get the perspective of two married residents of Pastoral, Calla and Theo. Theo comes across a photo of Maggie St. James and curiosity mixed with other clues sets him on a mission to find out who she was. 

I’m a sucker for a book that switches perspectives each chapter, and these perspectives perfectly intertwine with one another. The author sets amazing scenes throughout the entire story, making this book impossible to put down. 

I loved the twists throughout the book and the way that the story builds, however the ending felt a bit rushed. This was definitely a surprising read and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Was this review helpful?
3.5* The writing is beautiful, the concept is intriguing, and the build-up during the first half is delicious. But the payoff was so disappointing - it felt like I'd savored the slow burn for so long only for it to fizzle out in an ending that seemed apparent from page 1. The execution of the twists was also not hard-hitting, it felt like confirmation of something I was being shown all along.
Was this review helpful?
Atmospheric, dark, mysterious, and at times deeply unsettling. Told in multiple POV’s, A History of Wild Places is a slower paced novel, yet still a compulsive page turner. What happened to Travis and Maggie? What is going on in Pastoral, what secrets are they all hiding? These are questions I was asking myself all the way through. I managed to guess the ending, but only because I was grasping at straws and was coming up with some wild theories and one of them just happened to be right. I felt the ending was a little drawn out, even though there was a twist I did not see coming. Also, I would have loved to have learned more about Travis’s ability to find missing people.
 
Thank you to @netgalley and @atriabooks for the review copy.
Was this review helpful?
Another great novel by Shea Ernshaw! I adore her young adult books and I so enjoyed this adult thriller that delves into the world of disappearances, lies, and manipulations. But it's also about fear and family. It was so thoroughly atmospheric that I felt like I was part of the Pastoral community. It's the type of story that reveals its complex layers as you read, and the twists and turns are many!

Shea Ernshaw's writing is beautiful and vivid. She's a relatively new published author but she's on my auto-buy list for sure.
Was this review helpful?