The Map That Leads to You by JP Monninger
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Published: June 2017
Genre: contemporary, romance
Heather Mulgrew’s world is already mapped out: she is going to travel abroad with her friends after college, come back to a great career in September, and head into a life where not much is left to chance. But that was before an encounter on an overnight train introduces her to Jack, a passionate adventurer who changes the course of her journey and her life.
Throwing Heather’s careful itinerary to the wind, they follow Jack’s grandfather’s journal through post-World War II era Europe: Vienna, Budapest, Turkey–exotic places that serve only to heighten their feelings. As September looms, Jack urges Heather to stay with him, to keep traveling, to give in to the romance of their experience; Heather convinces him to return to the United States.
Jack has a secret that could change everything. And Heather’s world is about to be shaken to the core.
Heather and her friends have their summer trip across Europe, and their lives, completely mapped out after graduation. She will be moving to NYC in September in a dream job position just as soon as she completes all the paperwork. While on an overnight train to Amsterdam, a stranger from Vermont named Jack pegs her for exactly who she is, and it makes her question how she’s approached everything, including the fun and carefree moments, in her life. Heather tosses her careful plans aside and joins Jack on his adventure through Europe, following in the footsteps of his grandfather’s journal written at the end of WWII. But what makes them rattle most is what happens after: after this trip, what’s next for them and their relationship? Jack’s not telling Heather something, and it’s big enough to shake all of her carefully laid plans.
Everything I love and feel about travel is packed into this book. Surprising moments of philosophy (the kind of discussions I thoroughly enjoy, especially when traveling) and pondering on life. And then the ultimate travel fantasy: finding that person to love and cherish, who sees you at your best and worst and knows you better than anyone else because of all that travel brings out of you…wow. I don’t have much to say about this book except that I dog-eared several pages with great quotes. I’ll present a few of them here in lieu of a review.
“He was from a dairy farm in Vermont. That’s the puzzle. I have a hard time imagining him here in Europe, just poking around. He had a big soul, Grandma always said. ‘He breathed through both nostrils’ was her phrase for it.”
On Life and Love
“What’s the opposite of a romantic? I’ve always wondered.”
“An accountant, I guess. A person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
“Dad, I don’t know for sure what it all means with Jack. I love him. I know that. And I think he loves me. I know some of the timing may be a little awkward, but there’s always a glitch, right? Isn’t that what you say? Life is one long fight against glitches? Well, I’m starting this new job, and I will give it everything. I promise you that. But Jack counts for something, too. We could postpone everything, tell ourselves what we experienced here doesn’t count, but you didn’t raise me like that. You didn’t. Life doesn’t happen someplace in the future. You said that. You said life happens here and now, and it’s a fool’s bargain to let something good go now in the hope of something better at a later date.”
“She is a young woman who has been asked to hold in her womb and arms the divine. What I admire about this statue is the ambivalence. You can see she is charmed by the child. See him? He is playing with a brooch on her cloak and not looking at her exactly, and her hip is out. I love women’s hips, especially when they’re poked out. See? Poked out to hold her child, who is the salvation of the world, and it all rests on a woman’s hip. But inside all that majesty is this small, timid woman and her beloved child. That’s why this statue kills me. I’ve read about it over and over, and now to see it…you know, there have been many transformations here in front of Our Lady. People have been converted in a single instant by one glance at her. I know, I know, I don’t believe much of it myself, but, Heather, I believe in the human need to believe, and this is the embodiment of that.”
“A book is a companion, though. You can read it in a special place, like on a train to Amsterdam, then you carry it home and you chuck it on a shelf, and then years later you remember that feeling you had on the train when you were young. It’s like a little island in time.”
“Have you ever heard someone say that books are places we visit and that when we run into people who have read the books we have read, it’s the same as if we had traveled to the same locations? We know something about them because they have lived in the same worlds we have lived. We know what they live for.”
A beautiful novel on love, friendship, and the places that shape the course of our lives.
This qualifies as book 11 of 12 in the Rock My TBR challenge.