Leave No Trace (Mejia)

Leave No Trace 
Mindy Mejia, 2018
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
336 pp.

A riveting and suspenseful thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a boy and his stunning return ten years later.

There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later… the son appeared.

Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he is violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility.

Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1979
Where—Minneapolis, Minnesota
Education—B.A., University of Minnesota; M.F.A., Hamline University
Currently—lives in the Twin Cities, Minnesota

Mindy Mejia is an American author, best known for her suspense novels, Everything You Want Me to Be (2017) and Leave No Trace (2018). She was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. She loved to write even as a child: her mother gave her a journal when she was 11, and Mindy continued writing throughout high school for the speech team and school literary magazine. In college she took a few writing courses. As she said in an interview on the blog, The Suspense is Killing Me,

Half-finished novels and story fragments littered my life during the 90’s. I began much more than I ever seemed to finish.

Mejia earned her B.A. from the University of Minnesota and afterward headed to the corporate world, eventually becoming a financial manager in an electronics firm. She continued to write on her lunch breaks, and went back to school to get her MFA. Her award-winning thesis project became her first novel, The Dragon Keeper, which was published by Ashland Creek Press in 2012. Five years later Emily Bestler Books published her second novel, Everything You Wanted Me to Be.

Mejia's short stories have been published in rock, paper, scissors; Things Japanese: An Anthology of Short Stories; and THIS Literary Magazine. Her next novel, Leave No Trace, is due out in 2018 from Emily Bestler Books.

She now writes full time and lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and children. (Author bio courtesy of the author.)

Book Reviews
Ms. Mejia displays the enviable ability and assurance of such contemporaries as Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman in convincingly charting inter-generational passion and angst.
Wall Street Journal

Excellent.… A strong sense of place infuses Leave No Trace, especially the expansive Boundary Waters—a place of wild beauty.
Associated Press

This psychological thriller is a triumph.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Mindy Mejia's evocative and provocative mystery… makes for a sophisticated and wicked whodunit.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the spirit of The Lovely Bones and Everything I Never Told You.… [C]ompelling.
Marie Claire

Mindy Mejia's latest is riveting.
US Weekly

Although overly plotted, especially with what feel like forced symmetries between Maya’s and Lucas’s backstories, the novel is saved by its arresting characters…. Mejia remains a writer to watch.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) The author uses Lake Superior's violent storms and the Boundary Waters' forbidding wilderness to intensify the story's emotional impact and heighten its exploration into the unpredictability of half-buried secrets.

(Starred review) Bathed in shades of melancholy, Maya's narration, woven in with Lucas and Josiah's heartbreaking story, is a testament to resiliency…. Keep tissues handy.… [T]thrilling… engaging… haunting… and utterly riveting.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Leave No Trace is set in present-day Minnesota, both in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters and its more urban landscapes. What details does Mejia use to create atmosphere and build the setting? How does place affect the action of the story?

2. What was your first impression of Maya? Did your feelings toward her change throughout the novel? What did you think of her when she confessed to killing Derek?

3. Family relationships are at the heart of Leave No Trace; compare and contrast the parent-child relationships in the novel. What themes does Mejia explore within these relationships?

4. The geography of the Boundary Waters is integral to Leave No Trace. Note the way Mejia balances the beauty and danger of this remote location in her descriptions. What passages do you find most emphasize the unique place?

5. The other "disappeared" people Mejia mentions in the story, such as Ho Van Thanh, Agafia Lykov, and Christopher Knight, are all real people. Pick one or two and research their stories. Which disappearance most intrigues you? What do you think captures the imagination about people living away from society?

6. What role does the Bannockburn shipwreck play in the novel? How does its story parallel the stories of characters in Leave No Trace?

7. At the end of the novel, Mejia writes, "There are some places, though, we can only go alone." Think about the spaces (physical, mental, emotional) that Mejia’s characters experience by themselves. Are there any common factors?

8. As you read along, what did you think happened to Josiah, Lucas, Heather, and Jane? How did it differ from what is revealed at the end of the novel?

9. Extreme circumstances and intertwined history aside, what do you think attracts Maya and Lucas to each other? What similar personality traits do you see in these two characters?

10. "I was the girl who didn’t need anyone and made sure things stayed that way.… My life was lonely, but there was something vital in the loneliness, an imperative that I keep the space around me empty and weightless," Maya thinks to herself after Lucas comes to her home and begins to break down her emotional barriers. How does Mejia draw the distinction between solitude and loneliness? Who in the novel would you deem lonely and who lives in solitude? How do their situations change during the course of the novel?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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