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Book Review: Escaping into the forest with a mystery to solve

Richmond Public Library staff reviews Shea Ernshaw's "A History of Wild Places."
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

A History of Wild Places is a consuming read, in the best way possible. It’s a book that grabs you right from the start and doesn’t let you go, right up to the incredible conclusion.

Travis Wren has been hired to find Maggie St. James, a children's book author who has gone missing. He treks deep into the northern California woods to try to find any trace of her, going only by the hint he’s been given by Maggie’s parents of "Pastoral". In the commune of that name deep in the forest, residents Calla, Theo, and Bee are told never to leave the boundaries of their town for fear of the rot that will seep into their skin if they do. But Theo has secretly been leaving, going a little further each day, and when he discovers a truck not far from the boundary, it makes him start to question everything he lives by.

Right from the start, I was gripped by this story. Travis sees the echoes of things when he touches them, such as who has touched those things before, and following him as he searches for Maggie drew me in instantly. And the cliffhanger at the end of his initial chapters left me absolutely clamouring for more - where did he go? What did he find? Who are these residents of Pastoral and how do they connect with his intriguing story? I was constantly wondering where he and the woman he was searching forwent, how it happened, and why we spend so much time with Travis and Calla and Bee. It was so fun finding out what was really going on.

The ending here came as a surprise but of the best kind. Despite everything that happens in this book, I now want to run away and join a Pacific northwest forest commune to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Alas, I will not, but escaping in these pages is a close second choice.

This book has everything I love: compelling characters, an unpredictable plot, and beautiful writing. I highly recommend it.

Jessica Boorsma is a Community Services Librarian at the Brighouse branch of the Richmond Public Library. For more great reads.