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.
I have friends who are huge Shea Ernshaw fans, and that made incredibly eager to read her books. On top of that, this one sounded incredibly intriguing. Missing people becoming missing from searching for missing people. A reclusive community with a rotting disease keeping them secluded, and secrets building on secrets. I sounded like something I would really like, and I was eager to see what I would think! Trigger warnings: mentions of suicide, grief, blood
This was not a book for me. I hate saying it, but I did not fall in love with this book. A big part of it felt kind of, bland to me. But, I think of my feelings about this book are just my personal preference, and that other people will love this book!
One thing that I did like this book was how it unfolded. The rising suspense especially was done incredibly well. The entire tone of the book shifted oh so subtly throughout, until it felt completely different than it did in the beginning. The book shifts as secrets are revealed, and it becomes something else.
I also really liked the mystery, and the hidden secrets of this book. They were a huge reason of why I kept reading it. Ernshaw knows how to place clues, to keep you invested in the story and what is going to happen. Even when I felt like things were kind of bland, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I wanted to know what secrets were being kept and where the story was going to go. And when I wasn’t loving a lot of other things in the book, I think that is huge!
It is obvious the Ernshaw is a very talented writer. She knows how to craft beautiful sentences, and weaves such incredible imagery. That said, I felt like there were so many memories and similes about bodies, and body parts. To me, it just became a bit repetitive, even if they were different in nature, I felt like there was just so many of them.
I had a hard time connecting with the overall story of this book, and I think that led me to having a hard connecting with the characters. While I was interested in the secrets and plot twists that were happening, I just didn’t find myself to be completely invested. It was sort of just happening. I also felt like the characters were sort of just there. I didn’t completely fall in love with them.
The one thing that did really bother me about this book was that it had a type of “magical” cure for a disability. It’s hard to describe without giving away the whole plot of the book. But, I will say that a character is blind throughout most of the book, and she becomes not blind by the end of it.
Overall, I feel like I just did not connect to this book, and that is why I didn’t love it. It just wasn’t a book for me, and that’s alright.