The Map That Leads to You: A Novel

The Map That Leads to You: A Novel

by J. P. Monninger

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“Romantic and unforgettable.” —Nicholas Sparks

Two strangers take the road less traveled...

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.

J.P. Monniger's The Map That Leads to You is a breathtaking novel about love, loss, and the best-laid plans that are meant to be broken.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466866560
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/13/2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 206,305
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

J.P. MONNINGER, author of The Map That Leads to You, is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.
JP MONNINGER, author of The Map that Leads to You, is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.

Read an Excerpt

The Map That Leads To You

By J. P. Monninger

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2017 Temple Hill, LLC.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6656-0


Here's the thing: the rest of it wouldn't have happened if the train to Amsterdam hadn't been crowded. It was that kind of obnoxious crowded, with everyone greedy for space, everyone annoyed that the train was overbooked and jammed, so I kept my head down once I had a seat, and I tried not to look up. I was reading The Sun Also Rises, which is a cliché, of course — recent college grad reading Hemingway on her first trip to Europe with her two friends — but I didn't care. I had already made Constance and Amy drink coffee and cognac at Les Deux Magots, and I had walked the Left Bank in Paris and sat with the pigeons alone in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I didn't want to leave Paris. I didn't want to leave its wide boulevards, the men playing boules in the Tuileries, the cafés, the harsh swallows of strong coffee, the funny little horns on the scooters, the paintings and museums and the rich crêpes. I didn't want to leave the early mornings when the café workers swept the cobblestones and rinsed down their areas with black hoses and silver water, or the evenings, either, when sometimes you smelled smoke, or chestnuts, and the old men with the long fishing poles sat on their three-legged stools and threw their lines baited with maggots into the Seine. I didn't want to leave the booksellers along the river, the moldy stalls lined with old, yellowed books, the landscape painters who came and spread their oils across stretched canvas, attempting to capture what could never be captured but only hinted at, turned into a ghost of what the city held. I didn't want to leave Shakespeare & Co., the English bookstore, the echo, the long, long echo of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, of nights splashing in the Ritz fountain, or squinty-eyed Joyce nibbling through his prose like a mouse hungry for print. I didn't want to leave the gargoyles, either, the surprising, watchful stone eyes staring down from cathedrals, from Notre Dame and a hundred other churches, their white faces sometimes streaked with mysterious black, as if stone could hold tears and release them over centuries.

They say you can never leave Paris; that it must leave you if it chooses to go.

I tried to take Paris with me. In Paris, I had read A Moveable Feast, and A Farewell to Arms, and Death in the Afternoon. I had them all on my iPad, a mini-Hemingway portable library, and although I was traveling with Constance and Amy, I was also traveling with Hemingway.

* * *

So I read. It was late. I was in Europe and had been for two and a half weeks. I was on my way to Amsterdam. Constance fell asleep next to me — she was reading The Lives of the Saints and was on her own spiritual journey to read and see everything she could about saints, and to see every statue or representation of saints, which fed her special passion and the subject of her senior thesis, hagiography — and Amy stuck her head over the seat behind me and began chatting up a Polish guy named Victor. Victor smelled like sardines and wore a fatigue jacket, but Amy kept elbowing me a little when he said something she thought was cute, and her voice got that singsongy flirtatiousness that meant she was roping a guy and tying him up. Victor was good looking and charming, with a voice that made him sound vaguely like Dracula, and Amy, I saw, had hopes.

That's where everything stood when Jack appeared.

* * *

"Could you hold this?" he asked.

I didn't look up. I didn't understand he meant me.

"Miss?" he asked.

Then he pushed a backpack against my shoulder.

I looked up. I saw Jack for the first time.

Our eyes met and didn't let go.

"What?" I asked, aware one of us should have looked away by now.

He was gorgeous. He was actually more than gorgeous. He was big, for one thing, maybe six foot three and well built. He wore an olive fleece and blue jeans, and the way they hung on him made the combination look like the most interesting outfit anyone had ever thought to wear. Someone or something had broken his nose a long time ago, and it had healed in an apostrophe shape. He had good teeth and a smile that started in dimples just an instant before he knew it was going to start. His hair was black and curly, but not 'Fro-ish, just Dead Poet-y. I noticed his hands, too; they were large and heavy, as though he wasn't afraid to work with them, and he reminded me — just a little bit, just a bit, because it sounded silly to say it even to myself — of Hugh Jackman, the freaking Wolverine. This fellow looked insouciant — a stretch of a word but accurate nonetheless — a man who lived behind a wink that indicated he got the joke, was in on it, didn't take it seriously, but expected you to go along with it. What that joke might be or how it counted in your life wasn't quite clear, but it made the corners of my mouth rise a little in the ghost of a smile. I hated that he drew a smile out of me, even the reflex of a smile, and I tried to look down, but his eyes wouldn't permit it. He dog stared me, humor just on the other side of his look, and I couldn't resist hearing what he wanted next.

"Could you please hold this while I climb up?" he asked, extending the backpack again. His eyes stayed on mine.

"Climb up where?"

"Up here. In the baggage rack. You'll see."

He plunked his backpack on my lap. And I thought, You could have put it in the aisle, Wolverine boy. But then I watched him roll out his sleeping bag in a space he had cleared on the baggage rack across from me, and I had to admire his skill. I also had to admire his hindquarters, and the V of his back, and when he reached for his backpack, I looked down out of shyness and guilt.

"Thanks," he said.

"No problem."

"Jack," he said.

"Heather," I said.

He smiled. He put the backpack into the baggage rack as a pillow, then climbed up. He appeared too big to fit, but he wedged himself in and then took out a bungee cord and roped it around the supports so that he wouldn't fall out if the train went around a bend.

He looked at me. Our eyes met again and held.

"Good night," he whispered.

"Good night," I said.


It sounds crazy, but you can tell a lot by the way a person looks when he or she sleeps. It's a little bit of a study with me. Sometimes I take pictures of sleeping people, and Constance calls it my nightscape series. In any case, I watched Jack in small glimpses, like a movie, because the train sped along and the lights from outside came in every once in a while and illuminated his face. You can tell if someone is a worrier or not, a frightened or brave person, a clownish type or a serious person by his or her sleep expressions.

Jack slept peacefully, flat on his back, his eyelashes thick — he had good eyelashes, caterpillar eyelashes — and now and then I saw his eyes flicker in REM cycle under his lids. His lips parted slightly so that I could see glimpses of his teeth, and his arms stayed folded on his chest. He was a beautiful man, and twice I stood to stretch my back and snuck looks at him, the flashing lights turning him into a black-and-white film, something out of a Fellini movie.

I was still watching him when my phone rang. It was the Mom-a-saurus.

* * *

"Where's my adventure girl now?" Mom asked, her voice coated with morning coffee. I pictured her in our kitchen in New Jersey, her outfit for the day waiting on a hanger upstairs while she had her coffee and non-carb breakfast on a tiny plate in the kitchen.

"On the train to Amsterdam, Mom."

"Oh, how exciting. You've left Paris. How are the girls?"

"They're fine, Mom. Where are you?"

"Home. Just having my coffee. Daddy's gone for a couple of days to Denver on business. He asked me to give you a call, because there are tons of letters here for you from Bank of America. They look like human resources things — you know, insurance, health plans, but I guess some of them need your attention."

"I'll get to them, Mom. I've already been on the phone to the HR people."

"Listen, I'm just the go-between. Daddy has his ways, as you know. He likes things covered, and you're going to work for his friend."

"I know, Mom," I said, "but they wouldn't have hired me if they didn't think I could handle the job. I graduated with a 3.9 from Amherst, and I was offered three positions besides this one. I speak French and a little Japanese, and I write pretty well, and I come across in an interview when I need to, and —"

"Of course," Mom interrupted because she knew this stuff, knew everything, and I was being defensively dogmatic. "Of course, darling. I didn't mean to imply anything different."

I took a deep breath. I tried to be calm when I spoke again.

"I know there's probably paperwork, but I'll leave time before I have to start in September. Tell Daddy not to worry. It's all going to be fine. I have it all under control. You know I'm the type to get those things done. He doesn't need to worry. If anything, I'm a tad obsessive about details."

"I know, honey. I guess he's a little divided, that's all. He wants you to explore Europe, but he also knows this job is pretty big. Investment banking, sweetheart, it's —"

"Got it, Mom," I said, seeing her with her T. rex head, slowly lifting me from the ground in her mouth, my legs wiggling. I changed the subject and asked about my cat. "How's Mr. Periwinkle?"

"I haven't seen him this morning, but he's around here someplace. He's very stiff, and he has lumps, but he's still eating."

"Will you give him a kiss for me?"

"How about if I pet him for you? He's filthy, sweetheart. Just filthy, and I worry about what's on his skin."

"Mom, he's been in our family for fifteen years."

"You think I don't know that? I'm the one who has fed him and taken him to vet visits, you know?"

"I know, Mom."

I turned my iPad over. I didn't like seeing my face reflected in the glass as I talked into the phone. Was I really getting annoyed with my mother over my cat while sitting on a train on the way to Amsterdam? That felt a little bit insane. Luckily, Amy came to my rescue by standing and slipping past me. She wiggled her eyebrows in a little signal. Victor, I saw, followed her down the aisle toward Lord knows what. Poland was about to be conquered.

"Listen, Mom, we're getting ready to pull in to Amsterdam," I fibbed. "I need to get my stuff together. Tell Daddy I will get to the paperwork the instant I get home. I promise. Tell him not to worry. I've e-mailed with people at the office, and I'm all set to start in September. It's all good. They actually seem happy to have me, and they're glad I'm taking this trip. They encouraged it, remember, because they know I'm going to be working flat out when I start."

"All right, sweetheart. You're the boss. You stay safe now, okay? You promise? I love you. Give a kiss and a hug to the girls."

"All right, Mom, I will. Love you."

The connection closed. The Mom-a-saurus lumbered off into the Jurassic Age, her feet making indentations into solid rock as she walked. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.


"What are you reading?"

It was late. I couldn't sleep after all. Amy hadn't returned. Constance seemed to sleep well enough for all of us. I was carried away to Spain with Hemingway, drinking too much and watching the bulls. Fiesta. The mountain trout streams. I was so involved in it that I didn't notice when Jack climbed into the seat next to me.

"Excuse me?" I said, and I turned the iPad against my chest.

"My legs went numb sleeping up there. Not right away but after a while. At least I got a little sleep. Do you want to try it? I'd boost you up."

"I could climb up if I wanted to."

"It was an offer, not an insult."

"You'll have to move if my friend comes back. The seat is taken."

He smiled. I wondered why I was being bitchy. It was likely a defense mechanism. He was so good looking — and so knew it — that I couldn't help wanting to puncture his confidence. My neck flushed. It's my one tell. My neck always flushes when I'm nervous, excited, or under pressure. When I took exams at Amherst, I looked like a ring-necked pheasant. I used to wear turtlenecks to cover it, though the heat of the collars only made it worse.

"You were reading, right?" he asked. "I saw the way your hand flipped the pages. Do you like these e-books? I'm not a big fan myself."

"I can carry a lot of books in one small device."

"Hooray," he said, his tone mocking but flirty.

"Traveling, they make sense."

"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. If you love the book, you can give it to someone else. And you can discover it over and over, and it's like seeing an old friend. Can't do that with a digital file."

"I guess you're purer than I am. You can also throw a book on a shelf, then pack it the next time you move, then unpack it, then pack it again. And so on. An iPad holds more than any bookshelf in any apartment I'm likely to get."

"I mistrust devices. Seems like a gimmick to me."

But saying that, he grabbed the iPad and turned it over. It happened so quickly that I didn't have time to prevent it. I was conscious of the train-ness of the whole experience: cute guy, train moving, lights, scents of food from back in the bar cars, foreign languages, adventure. Also, he smiled. He had a killer smile, a conspiratorial smile, a smile that said mischief wasn't far off, come along, we're going to have a better time than you're having alone.

"Hemingway?" he asked, reading a page. "The Sun Also Rises. Wow, you've got it bad."

"Got what bad?"

"Oh, you know, the whole Hemmy thing. Paris, kissing the old women in the slaughterhouses, wine, impressionists, all that. The usual romance of the ex-patriate experience in Europe. Maybe even the I-want-to-be-a-writer-and-live-in-a-garret thing. You might even have it that bad. I thought women didn't like Hemingway anymore."

"I like the sadness."

He looked at me. He hadn't expected that, I could tell. He even bent back a little to see me more fully. It was a look of appraisal.

"East Coast," he said tentatively, like a man caught between choices of ice cream flavors. "Jersey, maybe Connecticut. Dad works in New York. It could be Cleveland, maybe the Heights, I could be off that much, but I don't think so. How close am I?"

"Where are you from?"

"Vermont. But you didn't tell me if I was right or wrong."

"Keep going. I want you to tell me my whole profile."

He looked at me again. He put his hand softly on my chin. It struck me as a pretty good pickup tactic regardless of how accurate he might be. He turned my face gently from side to side, looking seriously at me. He had wonderful eyes. My neck glowed like red flannel. I glanced quickly to see if maybe Constance had stirred at our voices, but she still slept. She could sleep through a hurricane, I knew.

"You graduated recently. You're in Europe with your buddies now ... sorority sisters? No, probably not sorority sisters. You're too clever for that. Maybe you worked on the college newspaper together. Good college, too, am I right? East Coast, so, maybe Sarah Lawrence, Smith, something like that."

"Amherst," I said.

"Oooooo, so smart, too. Tough to get into Amherst these days. Or well connected, which is it? How smart? Hmm? That remains to be seen. But you're reading Hemingway in Europe, so that's either very impressive or terribly clichéd."

"You're being a jerk, you know? A condescending jerk. That's the worst kind."

"I'm doing a male display in order to meet you. The thing is, I like you. I liked you right off. If I had tail feathers, I would spread them out and dance around you to demonstrate my interest. But how am I doing so far? Is it working at all? Feel any pitter-pat in your heart?"

"You were better before you opened your mouth. Much better, actually."

"Okay, touché. Let's see. Mom involved in charities, volunteer work. Dad has made it big. Corporate big, not entrepreneurial big. But that's just a guess. Lots of dough either way. You're reading Hemingway, so you have artistic feelings, but you don't trust them because, well, because they aren't practical. Hemingway is part of the well-read résumé, right?"

I took a deep breath, nodded to accept what he said, then slowly began to speak.


Excerpted from The Map That Leads To You by J. P. Monninger. Copyright © 2017 Temple Hill, LLC.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Map That Leads to You 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was fair but I can't stand writers who think adding vulgarities into a story makes it better! I will not read this author again because of that!
KimMc More than 1 year ago
"It was pretty to think so, wasn't it?" I absolutely love, and hate, and love this book! Such an inspiring tale of love, adventure, and life lessons all rolled into one heart wrenching tale between two people on a quest with Hemingway through Europe. Jack and Heather's story begins on a train, which propels their relationship into the stratosphere and gives it a mystical quality. The characters are real, and their relationship true, which brings such poignancy, that you become invested in them and are rooting for them throughout all the enigmatic tones of their journey together. "Love finds us, passes through us, continues." as it does in The Map that Leads to You. This one will stay with you long after you've put it down. The numerous highlights and rereads are already upon me, as I love, and hate, and simply love this book. *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Poignant, compelling and endearingly romantic! This is a coming-of-age story about friendship, responsibility, independence, and first love all wrapped up in a beautiful travel guide to some of the most breathtaking historical landmarks, monuments, and cities in Europe. The characters are young, enthusiastic, and adventurous. The prose is clear and precise. And although the plot in the first half of the novel is a little slow, the second half is definitely much more intense, angsty, emotional, and drama-filled with an ending that will definitely have you shedding a few tears. Overall, I think this novel will be a big success and really appeal to teens and young adults and even though I think I’m a little older than the target demographic I found it intriguing, unique and wonderfully descriptive.
BooknerdJackie More than 1 year ago
The Map That Leads to You is a New Adult fiction novel that takes place in Europe. After graduating, Heather and her two best friends go on their highly anticipated Europe trip, wanting to let loose before going back to real life where a new job was awaiting Heather. On a train ride to Amsterdam, Heather meets Jack and they hit it off straight away! When Jack and Heather first meet, they’re both full of banter and they keep teasing and flirting with each other. They cross paths again at a party in Amsterdam and they feel a pull towards each other so they start spending more and more time together. Heather, being the well-organised person that she is, planned to mostly visit all the typical tourist spots but Jack makes her loosen up and be more adventurous. Instead of seeing the typical sights, Jack surprises her by showing her a special place in every country. They sneak into a horse barn in Amsterdam and sleep there over night, they plant a tree in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris (which was kind of illegal but who cares it was so ROMANTIC). It was so lovely to see Heather open up and just live in the moment! The both of them were really good for each other! The thing that I probably loved the most about this book was the writing. I absolutely adored the descriptions of their journey all over Europe – it felt like I was right there, travelling along with them! The writing was so poetic, descriptive and metaphorical - it was simply beautiful. I loved everything about it. ❤ My heart is very happy after reading this book and I would 100% recommend it :’) *I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way!*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Constance, Amy, and Heather have just graduated from Amherst and are off on a tour of Europe. When they return, Heather will start a job in investment banking. The girls are all having a good time and then on a train heading to Amsterdam, Heather meets Jack. At first, she is not too impressed by him but quickly changes her mind. His friend takes a liking to Constance. Amy is more of a free spirit ready to grab excitement where she can. In Amsterdam, they experience different things visiting parties, and fun sites. Jack shows Heather an old journal that his grandfather kept when he made his way back to the U.S. from Europe after the war. He noted many places he saw and his impression of them. Jack has been on a mission to try and retrace his grandfather’s footsteps across Europe. Before long, Jack and Heather fall in love. Their hearts are one and Jack is going home with Heather at the end of the summer. From there, they will talk marriage. Their love is deep and beautiful and one that should last forever. I cannot give out any more here for that would ruin the story for readers. Suffice to say that this book just keeps getting better and better. I loved it and I have to say that you must read this book. But do keep some tissues nearby for you are going to need them. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.