A History of Wild Places: A Novel (Hardcover)
December 2021 Indie Next List
“This twisty thriller gave me similar vibes to The Village and absolutely kept me on my toes! Shea Ernshaw really hit it out of the park with this brilliant adult debut.”
— Kassie Weeks, The Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Often hired by families as a last resort, he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—and is soon 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.
“As spine-chilling as it is beautifully crafted” (Ruth Emmie Lang, author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance), 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.
"A lurid, fast-paced story of a reclusive commune. . . . The twisty plot brims with tension. There’s plenty of fodder here for a miniseries."
— Publishers Weekly
“Deep in the woods, a hidden community lives by its own strange rules honed by myth, suggestion, and the terrible powers of groupthink. Is Pastoral as bucolic and lilting as its name, or do the trees split with rot, spewing a pox on all who dare to leave? In powerful, lush prose, Shea Ernshaw has created a world soaked through with the dread of nightmares. A terrifying and timely book.”
— Erica Ferencik, bestselling author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle
“Let the wild rumpus start! A History of Wild Places is poignant and original, and will truly take you to uncharted places. One of the best novels I’ve read this year.”
— Alex Finlay, author of Every Last Fear and The Night Shift
“A gorgeously written tale of a community frozen in time and falling headlong into darkness. The plot twists will leave you breathless.”
— Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters
“Dark and atmospheric, A History of Wild Places is a twisting, engrossing delight. Ernshaw’s skillful mix of mystery, psychological thriller, and paranormal-tinged drama keeps the ground shifting beneath her characters and readers. What a wonderful rabbit hole to fall down.”
— Erika Swyler, author of Light From Other Stars and The Book of Speculation
"An entirely enthralling novel, a true history of a world that pulls the reader into its depths. It is darkly rich in its setting, and its visual, visceral, and absorbing moments are both haunting and rewarding to the reader.”
— Phoebe Wynne, author of Madam
“A riveting, atmospheric thriller that messes with your mind in the best way. Shea Ernshaw knows what she’s doing.”
— Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer
“As spine-chilling as it is beautifully crafted, A History of Wild Places will have you compulsively checking your pulse and the whites of your eyes. It will almost certainly make you reconsider that walk in the woods, or at least, compel you to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in your wake.”
— Ruth Emmie Lang, author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
"A History of Wild Places is as eerie and enticing as a gingerbread house in a dark forest. My advice? Gobble up the whole thing. This book will enchant you with its delicious, dangerous magic."
— Abby Geni, author of The Lightkeepers and The Wildlands