Vicki (Watertown MA)
This is a sweeping adventure tale that is also a spiritual quest for love and meaning. Kira Salak work as a journalist really pays off here in her first novel. Incredible book.
Laura (Los Angeles CA)
The White Mary
A harrowing adventure story at its core, The White Marycenters around Marika Vecera, a war correspondent always seeking out the worlds most dangerous situations because of a life-long commitment to tell the story of victims of war and genocide. But the things she witnesses leave her emotionally frozen.
Escaping problems in her new love relationship, she goes to Papua New Guinea chasing down a rumor that her hero, Robert Lewis might still be alive in a remote village in the middle of a mostly unexplored area. Salaks development of her characters, their feelings and motivations, can seem a bit wooden and manufactured, but she shines when describing Marikas journey through the incredibly difficult terrain of Papua New Guinea. Marika deals with leeches, snakes, and the real possibility of deadly illness away from any of the comforts or safety of her western home. Salak, the author, traversed PNG solo and wrote an award-winning non-fiction book about the journey, making her descriptions of Marikas experiences read like a wonderfully descriptive real life journal.
Being a war correspondent, Marika is used to deprivation and difficulty but when she puts her life on the line time and again in her quest to find a man she never personally knew on the strength of a vague rumor I felt the character was stuck in a plot, rather than Marikas story simply unfolding. But again, these chapters of her stay deep in jungle of PNG living among people who have rarely, if ever, seen a white person, are captivating.
Louella (Phoenix AZ)
Lost in a Jungle of Words
This was a hard book to keep reading. The leading character seemed too self involved to hold my interest. Her motivations were all negative in nature. Finally, new characters and a shift in locale provided the catalyst to see growth and courage emerge in her. Finally, the reader is rewarded with a moral epiphany on her part that makes the whole book worth the patience of reading it.
This book would appeal to people who enjoy travel, adventure and spiritual growth. For a novel the writing was not engaging and the organization lacked the power to sustain my attention.
Molly (Longmont CO)
Better Her Than Me
White Mary was surprisingly compelling, after my initial sense that the author was trying too hard and that the tale was contrived. If the writing doesn't carry the reader away, then the story had better be darn good, and in this case, I found it good enough to finish the book eagerly. Marika's emotional journey was predictable, albeit extreme. Her physical voyage was fascinating, however, through jungles and into a remoteness and total absence of creature comforts that was enthralling in an "I'm SO glad I'm not there" kind of way. Ms Salak has clearly experienced some of the horrors of which she writes, because her writing rings true and the book soars in these passages. I will search out her nonfiction account of travelling in Papua New Guinea, Four Corners, as I think I'd like her writing more if she didn't feel obliged to insert a manufactured plot.
Ann (Clermont GA)
The White Mary by Kira Salak
Adventurous journalist Marika Vecurs has dedicated her life to writing about the world's "hell holes", During a particularly arduous trip to Papua New Guinea, she realizes that though she has dared death many times, that it ultimately takes more courage to live than it does to die. This adventure story would appeal to anyone who delights in reading about faraway places and high adventure.
Stephen (Aston PA)
The White Mary
This is an incredible debut novel by Kira Salak. The novel follows in the tradition of Conrad's In the Heart of Darkness.The adventure scenes leave one speechless and brings back the story of Stanley's search for Livingston. This tale of spiritual quest will inspire and change the reader's view of the world. It is a tale of survival and enlightenment.
Elizabeth (Cincinnati OH)
The White Mary
I was so excited to read this book--a journalist who draws from personal experience in some of the most war-torn and unstable places on the planet as well as a personal journey in a place we rarely hear of in the news. I was disappointed to find a novel with few interesting scenarios that ultimately fell flat and rang hollow.
I know writing is challenging--non-fiction or otherwise, but the writing here is poor. And the omniscient narrator doesn't work. I really wanted to feel the experience of going deep into Papua New Guinea, but the descriptions were cursory and didn't bring it alive to me at all. Then the novel seems to want to be an allegory for emotional redemption and instead sounds like some ridiculous self-help advice. Even if you suspend disbelief this novel doesn't work. For a real journey into the jungle I would recommend skipping it and reading Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski.