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All booksMagical realismA History of Wild Places
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
Magical realism

A History of Wild Places

by Shea Ernshaw

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

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Action


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Puzzle


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


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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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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Get an early look from the first pages of A History of Wild Places.

Member thoughts

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All (12344)
Love (7565)
Like (4354)
Dislike (425)
12455 ratings
  • 61% Love
  • 35% Like
  • 3% Dislike
  • South Jordan , UT

    This book was so weird… but I loved every moment of it. I love that it didn’t remind me of any other story. I read it in 1 day because I HAD to know the ending. I honestly can’t stop thinking about it

  • Columbia, SC

    5 BOTM choices in 2021 (why did I wait so long?) and I’ve found the one I love. I don’t give this rating out Willy-nilly. Ernshaw writes delicately & beautifully. Her words pull you in like a whisper.

  • Fort Worth, TX

    “We are all just looking for our way home”. This book was completely not what I was expecting, but I loved it nonetheless! A very refreshing, unique and interesting book that twists until the very end

  • Broomfield, CO

    I had no idea what I was reading, the title does not connect but it’s a clever mystery that builds a community and culture as it slowy reveals what happened. Slow start but then couldn’t put it down.

  • Portland, OR

    I loved this! The story, the writing, the pacing, the humanity, all of it. I love it when I am thinking about a book when I’m not reading it. It doesn’t happen often, but this one was always lurking!

  • Williamstown, WV

    This book was so weird, yet is probably one of my favorites I have read in a long time. The twist was definitely something I didn’t expect, but it made total sense. It still lives rent free in my head

  • Pittsburgh, PA

    A unique novel with thriller tendencies but ultimately seeks to answer larger questions about our existence and the lives we choose to live. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it and enjoyed it!

  • Colchester , CT

    Completely immersed in this story from start to finish. You’ll feel like you are living in those remote woods hiding out from the rain and the plague that threatens the very existence of the community

  • North Haledon , NJ

    This book was dark, twisted, riveting and thought provoking. I really enjoyed it abs found I didn’t want to put it down. The ending/resolution was really surprising. I would definitely recommend.

  • San Jose, CA

    Love love love this book. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that I couldn’t put down. Finished it in 2 days because I just had to know what happened. Unexpected twists are my favorite.

  • Bellefonte, PA

    Rich in atmosphere, I was completely immersed in the dreamy setting of this mystery as the idyllic tips over into madness. I didn’t predict the twist, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ending.

  • Albany, NY

    I love a touch of magic to my mysteries that this book brought. I was captivated instantly by the search for Maggie and all the strange happenings in an isolated wood setting. I Couldn’t put it down

  • Chesterland , OH

    This unique and captivating story keeps you guessing as you go on a wild ride. Find yourself guessing as the story unfolds what’s going to happen next. Enjoyed the adventure this book takes you on!

  • Raynham, MA

    I really enjoyed this book! I didn’t want to put it down because I was so intrigued by the different mysteries that kept unfolding. Some parts were a bit unbelievable in plot, but still a great read!

  • Pottstown , PA

    An ending I did not see coming! A little of a slow start but quick chapters & excellent character building had me turning pages quickly a few chapters in! I couldn't put it down and read it in 2 days!

  • Cedar Falls, IA

    This book is exactly what I needed it to be. Theo, Calla, and Bee are the most perfect characters with amazing development. When I thought the twists were done, we got more. I’m going to miss them.

  • Boerne, TX

    A riveting and startlingly original tale told with lush prose and a wide eye toward the problems modern society presents. Thrilling twists and turns to boot. This deserves all the praise it is getting

  • Winter Springs, FL

    Love how this story unfolds. Loved the twist—I knew things weren’t as they seemed, but I couldn’t figure out exactly how. I easily got lost in this world and it kept my interest the whole time.

  • Onalaska, WI

    One of the best books I have read in a long time! I could not put it down! I love the ending of the characters returning to their most true selves and getting back to a more simple life. Great mystery

  • Colorado Springs, CO

    This book reminds me of The Village and I loved it! The ending was satisfying and the different viewpoints kept the story going in a beautiful way. This is probably in my top 5 books I’ve ever read

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