Book Nook: A History of Wild Places

By Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer

My goal when entering a bookstore is to uncover the “diamond in the rough” — the book that is eye-opening or shocking, that no one else seems to know about. If we share the same goal, I’m here to tell you about your next “diamond in the rough” read, entitled “A History of Wild Places” by Shea Ernshaw. 

The novel follows the character Travis Wren and his unordinary profession of locating missing persons. It seems to be more like a special talent, as he only needs a single object of theirs to locate them. Travis is at a particularly low place in his life after losing his sister and dealing with the consequences that often accompany his job. 

About to give up, a family approaches Travis hoping for help finding their daughter, Maggie St. James. She is an experienced writer of many children’s books and has been missing for five years. Using his talent, he is drawn to the community of Pastoral, grounded deep within the woods, with like-minded people looking for a certain simplicity in life. 

The plot then skips a couple of years rather abruptly and introduces two new characters Theo and Calla, a married couple who live in Pastoral. It is inherent to mention that no one is allowed out of the border of Pastoral because of the danger of the disease swarming the woods, called “the rot.” It is said to seep into your body and infect you, making your blood run black. The community holds frequent sessions whenever someone catches the disease, where they bury the patient alive in hopes to draw out the rot. Terrified, no one dares to cross the border. But when curiosity takes over Theo, he ventures past the border and discovers Travis’ abandoned truck, and is immediately compelled to solve the case and understand where this mysterious person could have gone. 

Ernshaw leads readers through a compelling world where you can trust no one and where secrets continue to build up. The story jumps through the perspectives of Theo, Calla and Calla’s little sister Bee, to give readers a sense of dramatic irony, and invoke a sense of urgency. This slow burn will have readers questioning every last character until they are hit with an enormous plot twist. 

While reading this book I found myself continuously yelling at the characters as if they could hear me. “A History of Wild Places,” will require you to sit down and ponder the occurrences that you just experienced. You will even find yourself looking into your own life and trying to locate similarities to relate to the emotions of the community. 

Ernshaw wraps up a compelling and terrifying storyline with a comforting message that a home is truly what you make it. “No matter where you go, there are cracks in the plaster, nails coming loose, you just have to decide where you want to piece yourself back together. Where the ground feels sturdiest beneath your feet,” Ernshaw writes.

“A History of Wild Places,” is a must-read. I guarantee that when you turn to page 368 in your hardcover copy, you will be wondering why more people aren’t raving about it.