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.
What I Enjoyed
A History of Wild Places is one of those books that I just want to talk about millions of tiny details but then realize to do that gives away spoilers. And who wants their reading experience to be spoiled? None of you – I know that for sure.
The story begins with Travis Wren, a man with the unusual ability to see past imprints of people. This makes him the ideal person to solve missing person cases. But Travis has inner demons, and all he wants to do is run away. He agrees to take on one more case – that of missing author Maggie St. James. And where that leads just blew my mind with each twist, turn, and surprising revelation.
A History of Wild Places is a slow to medium-burn psychological thriller, but that in no way impacts how utterly compelling the story is. I stayed up late into the night because I couldn’t tear myself away from the story, and that doesn’t often happen – never with slowish-burn stories. The rich and immersive atmosphere pulled me in, and I couldn’t let go. The descriptions themselves, starting with the very first sentence of the story, just drip with sensory experiences that made me feel like I stepped onto the page and never looked back.
There are four narrators in total, but it is never confusing switching between them. Each narrator adds a different and relevant piece of the tale that all work together to develop the plot and the characters so well that I felt like I knew each and every one, as well as I know my co-workers and neighbors.
I figured out a few of the plot points ahead of time, but most of the revelations floored me as I never expected the story to twist and turn as it did. Each plot gap is filled in, and each secret is revealed so that by the end of the story, I had a complete picture and no more questions. I loved how well the story is brought together without diminishing the element of surprise or prematurely giving away secrets.
What I Wish
There is nothing I could possibly wish for a story as sublime as this one is.
Travis Wren has the uncanny ability to see imprints people have left in the past. He is haunted by personal demons but determined to find Maggie St. James.
Maggie St. James is an author. She writes dark children’s stories that have created controversy as children have perished trying to find the secret land in her stories. She is at a crossroads and, one day just disappears.
Theo was born and raised in Pastoral, but he can’t resist the compulsion to explore beyond the town’s borders despite dire warnings.
Calla was also born in Pastoral. She grew up with Theo and one day finally noticed him. They are married and living with Calla’s sister Bee on the family farm at the edge of town.
Bee is the blind sister of Calla and has been in a relationship with Levi since they were both young and before she lost her vision.
Reminds Me Of
The author mentioned that Dean Koontz was an early inspiration for her, and I could see those influences in the story.
To Read or Not to Read
Everyone needs to read this story because it has so much that any reader will enjoy and love to contemplate.