‘Leave No Trace’ is the second book by Mindy Mejia and it’s just as dark and compulsive as her previous novel called ‘The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman’.
Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior. There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child. But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?
The book is primarily seen solely through the narrative of Maya Stark, a speech therapist at a psychiatric hospital who has been give a new patient called Lucas Blackthorn, a violent and non-responsive young man who came out from the woods one day, ten years after him and his father disappeared. He’s unresponsive and refuses to answer questions, so Maya is brought in to help him and two of them form an unlikely bond and kinship as they have more in common than neither of them realise. There are occasionally perspectives from Lucas and his father and these insight provide an interesting slant to the story.
Along with her patients, Maya is a troubled young soul who never got over her mothers disappearance and has regularly tackled her own demons and mental issues, she provides a relatable voice to her patients with her kind and gentle nature. Right, from the outset it’s obvious that she has had issues in life and those are revealed as the story progresses shocking not only the reader of the book but also supporting characters in the story. Even though Lucas, is also troubled it is hard not to feel empathy for the young man, after living in the woods for 10 years, he’s scared of the world and the new found celebrity status that is suddenly bestowed onto him as well as his concern for his father, the man he had to leave behind in the woods and that he so desperately wants to get back to.
Lucas and Maya trust each other, where people see volatility and unrest, there’s a quiet friendship brewing between the two as they begin to trust each other and find out they have more in common, than they could have ever imagined and when Lucas begs Maya to help him, she puts herself and her job at risk.
The book is a cleverly written tale that is vividly written and atmospheric from the very first page. Filled with drama and shocks throughout and underlined with tension that makes for a gripping ending. With relatable characters tackling real life issues, ‘Leave No Trace’ is a thrilling and occasionally gory story about mental illness and the major impacts that unanswered questions can have on our lives.
You can buy Leave No Trace from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.