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A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
Magical realism

A History of Wild Places

by Shea Ernshaw
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Quick take

A mesmerizing tale about the search for a missing woman last seen going into an isolated forest town with some secrets.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

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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.

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Why I love it

As an author, I inevitably get asked the question, “What do you like to read?” My answer is usually way more specific than the typical “I like romance” or “I like a good mystery.” I do like a good mystery, but I need something more. My favorite stories are the ones that make you question reality; stories that ask you to trust them, then betray you in the most satisfying way possible. A History of Wild Places is one of those stories.

It begins with a search for a beloved author who has gone missing but was last seen heading into a remote village known as Pastoral . . . The residents of Pastoral know not to go into the woods, but that doesn’t stop Theo from wondering what lies outside their seemingly idyllic community. When he finally decides to venture beyond the border, he happens upon an abandoned truck which sets off a chain of events that will irreparably change the course of his life and the ones he loves.

Written in sharp, fine-toothed prose, A History of Wild Places is both insightful and propulsive. You will navigate the book’s multitude of twists and turns with characters you genuinely care about, and will have many opportunities to exclaim “Don’t go in there!” The characters won’t listen and you won’t want them to, because if you’re being honest with yourself, you want to know what’s lurking in those woods, too.

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