Reader reviews and comments on The White Mary, plus links to write your own review.

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The White Mary

A Novel

by Kira Salak

The White Mary
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 368 pages
    Sep 2009, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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There are currently 19 reader reviews for The White Mary
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Cherylynn (09/30/09)

The White Mary
This book kept me on the edge and I did not want to put it down. It is hard to find a book that gets under my skin but this one did that. I never knew what was going to happen next and in no way could guess. That to me is a good book.
Jake (10/28/08)

An amazing, powerful, riveting book
The characters, scenes, events and descriptions of this book are so real that I found myself almost living Marika's life and experiencing her trials, tribulations, and successes in her amazing journey from traumatic events to a spiritual awakening. Never once was my reading suddenly interrupted by any event that seemed unreal and made me aware that I was reading a work of fiction. The characters are interesting, all people who we come to care about and understand at a very a deep level. The book brought me to places I have never seen, never imagined, and made them as real to me as my own living room. The book's pages flow easily and you are constantly being pulled forward, wanting to know what will happen next. Once I started reading the book I ignored other plans and just had to keep reading until the end. Tobo, though a secondary character, I think is one of my favorites, his insights into life are really amazing. The physical and spiritual journeys in this book are wonderful, sometimes extremely powerful, and I am so glad that I was able to join Marika on her journeys.

I loved that Marika was so realistic. She has all of the strengths and weaknesses that we find in all humanity. Marika represents us at the point in our life where we struggle out of darkness and into the light. The character Seb represents what we can become after reaching the lowest point and struggling through years of work to reach the highest point.

Salak is a true master at the craft of novel writing and this is a powerful novel written on many levels.

A book that should definitely be read.
Erika (07/31/08)

The White Mary
In Salak's dugout canoe take an inhospitable adventure into the jungles of Papua New Guinea in search of a man believed dead. But is he? Beautiful, hypnotic, mesmerizing, intoxicating. Raw in nature while elegant in spirit. Simple yet deeply profound. Meaningful reading. Salak will renew your sense of spirit.
Laura (07/31/08)

The White Mary
A harrowing adventure story at it’s core, The White Marycenters around Marika Vecera, a war correspondent always seeking out the world’s 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. Salak’s development of her characters, their feelings and motivations, can seem a bit wooden and manufactured, but she shines when describing Marika’s 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 Marika’s 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 Marika’s 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.
Roberta (07/31/08)

The author may be an accomplished writer, but the affectations used as writing style nearly prevented me from completing this book. The subject as a whole is quite depressing and the author pushes through her condescending attitude that we "lambs" know or care about nothing that lies greater than 2 feet from our nose. I suppose the author has done her job by getting me riled and thinking about the topic at hand, but I hesitate to say I enjoyed the process.
Suzanne (07/31/08)

One Woman's Heart of Darkness
How much sorrow and intentional pain can we witness without losing our souls? It's a highly personal question that award-winning journalist Kira Salak explores in her first novel, The White Mary. Knowing that Salak has herself spent much time in the heart of Papua New Guinea and covering atrocities in the Third World brings a sense of realism to this story that makes it all the more heartbreaking. It has some awkward tense changes in the beginning, and the character of Seb could have been better developed, but the plotting and pace of the book are impeccable and the story riveting. I highly recommend it.
Barbara (07/31/08)

The White Mary
I enjoyed this book a great deal. The writing and the story are engaging and the author's knowledge of Papua New Guinea is insightful. The main character's journey, both physically and emotionally, through unchartered territory is compelling. The author's descriptions of the privations, dangers and diseases encountered along the way are at times difficult to read, but they are never gratuitous and remain integral to the narrative. Many good book club discussion points about hope, healing, and the search for life's meaning.
Elizabeth (07/31/08)

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.
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