The White Mary

( 12 )

Overview

Marika Vecera is a young war reporter, recently back from the Congo and venturing into the first serious relationship of her life, when she hears the news that Robert Lewis has committed suicide. Lewis was a famous war correspondent and a hero to Marika, and as she begins working on his biography she gets word from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis alive. Astounded, Marika uproots her life in Boston and heads to Papua New Guinea—the world's least explored frontier—to uncover the truth. Encountering all ...

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The White Mary

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Overview

Marika Vecera is a young war reporter, recently back from the Congo and venturing into the first serious relationship of her life, when she hears the news that Robert Lewis has committed suicide. Lewis was a famous war correspondent and a hero to Marika, and as she begins working on his biography she gets word from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis alive. Astounded, Marika uproots her life in Boston and heads to Papua New Guinea—the world's least explored frontier—to uncover the truth. Encountering all the dangers of jungle travel and the haunting mythology of native tribes, Marika's search for Lewis becomes an unforgettable journey into the depths of the human soul.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Harrowing . . . Salak's descriptions of the jungle passage are compelling and dreamlike."—The Washington Post

"Keenly observed . . . As Vecera cuts her way through swamps and forests, encountering insects, snakes and the native population along the way, you'll think of the travails of Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen.”—USA Today

"There aren't many books that we hand to friends, urging, 'You have to read this.' The White Mary is one of them."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Salak's descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of the jungle, with its brutal chieftains and servile women, brings the story to life with all of its horrors and satisfactions."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Elizabeth Hand
With its hellish journey through a spectacularly inhospitable landscape, The White Mary necessarily evokes Heart of Darkness and features more leeches than John Huston's film "The African Queen." Salak's descriptions of the jungle passage are compelling and dreamlike. Even stronger are flashbacks of Marika in Bodo and a wrenching, horrific account of Lewis's capture and torture in East Timor. Salak's own journalistic experiences—she covered the Rwandan genocide and the 2003 war in the Congo, among other conflicts—have armed her with heartfelt, if indelibly grim, insights into man's capacity for "an endless stream of the worst, most inconceivable acts of inhumanity"…In The White Mary, Salak shows the courage of facing down that darkness and the inescapable price it exacts upon one's soul.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

A young reporter embarks on a dangerous adventure in Salak's gripping debut novel, a blend of Heart of Darkness and Tomb Raider. Like her protagonist, Marika Vecera, award-winning journalist Salak has traveled solo-and narrowly escaped death-in the world's most remote and terrifying places, including war-torn Congo and the interior of Papua New Guinea. Marika, an ambitious journalist, travels to discover the truth about war correspondent Robert Lewis, who has observed some of the modern world's greatest atrocities. He is believed to have committed suicide, but a letter from a missionary leaves Marika thinking he may still be alive in the wilds of Papua New Guinea. She sets off on her quest, and eventually malaria, ritual murder and arduous trekking through the wilderness lead Marika to some startling discoveries and a pathway out of her own past trauma. While the book can be harrowing (the graphic descriptions of torture are sobering and hard to put out of mind), it offers Marika a redemptive optimism in the face of the worst humanity has to offer. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In this debut novel from Salak, National Geographic Adventure editor/travel writer, war reporter Marika Vecera is devastated by reports that her idol, Pulitzer® Prize-winning journalist Robert Lewis, committed suicide. Learning he might still be alive in a remote Papua New Guinea jungle, she heads out to find him herself. The novel is replete with descriptions of the geography, tribal customs, and psychology of the region's culture and people. Audie® Award winner Joyce Bean's (Loving Frank) articulate, compelling narration well suits the strong female character of Marika; her rendering effectively takes listeners into the heart of the story. Recommended for larger public libraries. [Audio clip available through library.brillianceaudio.com; the Holt hc was recommended as "a good addition for all fiction collections," LJ5/15/08.-Ed.]
—Lisa Powell Williams

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312429041
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 972,333
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kira Salak has won the PEN award for journalism and appeared five times in Best American Travel Writing. She is a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine and was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea; her nonfiction account of that trip, Four Corners, was a New York Times Notable Travel Book of 2001. Her fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices and other publications. The White Mary is her first novel. She lives in Montana.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Only the darkest depths can shed some light

    The main reason why I chose to read this book was the fact that I have just finished watching the last season of Lost which has rapidly turned into one of my favorite shows of all time and I needed a quick jungle fix to prolong the euphoria. Rather than just being a good read, "The White Mary" surpassed my expectations and was one of the best books I have ever read, I feel so lucky that I decided to read this! <BR/><BR/>Intense, addictive and at some passages almost unreadable but in a good way, the world of young journalist who decides to find her inspirational favorite writer Robert Lewis is turned upside down as she dives into a life changing adventure. Marika Vecera has had enough of dangerous journalistic work overseas in war ridden countries where murder and thievery rule daily life, when her relationship suffers at her own decisions she decides to follow hear heart and seek out the one man who can give her answers. The problem is that he has been proclaimed dead due to a suicide possible by drowning in Malaysia, but rumors that reach Marika about his sighting in the most remote jungles of Papua New Guinea spark her interest at finding him, no matter how dangerous the journey. When she starts looking for him her outlook on life is weak, she is not afraid of death but the more her life is threatened with various occurrences she learns new things about herself that open the reader's eyes to deep corners of our own souls. The journey is fascinating but the future often bleak and the reader never knows when it will all suddenly end. I can't remember the last time I was so engrossed in such a rich, beautiful novel. <BR/><BR/>Half way through reading this I looked up the author, Kira Salak and found her website. Her own journeys to almost all the continents are documented with stunning photos; I spend a whole afternoon browsing her site, looking at the scrapbook of her life, so enormous and exciting that her life looks like an adventure movie in comparison to someone like myself. Through her eyes and words I too feel that the world is large and remote but accessible for those who really want to see each nook and cranny. I can't wait to read more of her work; this is one strong and brilliant woman. <BR/><BR/>- Kasia S.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    An amazing, powerful, riveting book

    I was fortunate to get a pre-publication review copy of this novel. 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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    well written and harrowing

    Globetrotting reporter Marika Vecera adored renowned war correspondent Robert Lewis, who has reported on some of the most heinous genocides humanity has done. Thus she has problems accepting the repot that her hero committed suicide as that is so out of character for a man who would courageously go to the next hot spot to expose atrocities.------------ When Marika reads a letter from a missionary she holds out hope that Robert is alive somewhere in remote Papua, New Guinea though she wonders why he is there. She decides to learn the truth as to whether he lives and if so why New Guinea. --------------- Marika¿s quest is well written and harrowing as she deals with horrific third world conditions including deadly sanitation, unclean water, disease, torture that even Cheney could not redefine otherwise and ceremonial rites of passage murders. However, though obviously a thriller, the insightful look at Marika as she witnesses first hand the horrendous gruesome mistreatment of humans towards other humans is horrific. To mentally survive she has to go numb because if she personalizes the incidents she sees and been embroiled in she would break down due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Readers will marvel as she keeps a flicker of hope that mankind will learn and redeem itself even as she trots off to the next atrocity.----------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Captivating, Thrilling, and Thought-provoking

    Marika travels the world in search of war stories to bring back to her readers. Little does she know the toll it is taking on her and her life. One person stands as a shining example of success for her - Robert Lewis. He is her idol and she has studied him for years. After his unexpected suicide, Marika determines that she will write an autobiography about him. She will even stay home to write. But, there is an unexpected letter that makes her believe that Robert is still alive. Should she search? Can she get there? If so, will she survive Papua New Guinea? Is Robert Lewis really still alive? What about Seb? Will he continue to love her?

    Kira Salak weaves a magnificent story about Marika and her demons. One of my favorite lines is found on pg. 337 and is spoken by Tobo. "Listen," he says to her sternly, "I will tell you a secret about your demons: they are never stronger than you." Come meet Marika, Seb, Tobo and the others. Take the journey to PNG. It is one that certainly captured my attention!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2008

    Over the top drama

    I was hoping to read some original descriptions and original thought but this was way short on both. I thought the whole thing was artificial and pretty high school. Very disappointing.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2008

    ¿A journey of healing to personal salvation?¿

    The White Mary<BR/>Kira Salak<BR/>Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2008<BR/>ISBN: 9780805088472<BR/>Reviewed by Dawn Janine Mitchell for ReviewYourBook.com, 12/2008<BR/>3stars <BR/>¿A journey of healing to personal salvation?¿ <BR/>Marika Vecera is a war correspondent who is in search of her childhood hero, Robert Lewis, who was pronounced dead after an apparent suicide. However, Marika receives a letter from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis alive in the jungle. Throughout the story, it seems as if Marika looks to him as a father figure, but later the reader sees a sudden change in the relationship, which is quite unbelievable. <BR/>Only one character seems true in this story: Tobo, Marika`s guide through the jungle. Tobo¿s character was full of old-world wisdom, and it was easy to believe in his authenticity. The descriptions of Papua were phenomenal. <BR/>I could almost feel myself present in the various places described. I was compelled to finish the book just to learn more about the culture, the different attitudes and beliefs of the tribes of New Guinea. However, the graphic depictions of torture and rape were quite unnecessary. It¿s best to sometimes leave descriptions up to the reader¿s imagination. <BR/>I have to admit that the description of the story was more appealing than the story itself. I didn¿t see much about the personal journey that rang true. In real life, such a journey takes time and more effort. The healing aspect of the book was just too far-fetched. Some parts of The White Mary were rather dull reading and others were just too graphic.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 1, 2009

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    Posted February 15, 2011

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    Posted April 17, 2010

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    Posted March 21, 2012

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    Posted April 29, 2010

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