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The White Mary: A Novel

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  847 Ratings  ·  214 Reviews
Marika Vecera is a young war reporter who hears the news that her hero, famous war correspondent Robert Lewis, has committed suicide. As she begins working on his biography she gets word from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis alive. Astounded, Marika heads to Papua New Guinea to uncover the truth. Encountering the dangers of the jungle and native mythology, Marika ...more
Kindle Edition, 351 pages
Published (first published August 5th 2008)
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Jul 15, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adventure-seekers, people who like drama and action stories
I read this book in anticipation for a lecture by the author at National Geographic later this month. I am familiar with Salak's nonfiction work about her own travels and experiences, and her first novel had many of the same elements that draw readers into the story.

Marika Vecera is a well-known war correspondent: she takes the dangerous and scary jobs in war-torn developing countries and has had more than one near-death experience. She starts a serious relationship and soon after learns about t
Saleh MoonWalker
جزو فیکشن هایی بود که توصیف جزئیاتش زیاد بود. محتوای گرافیکی، جنسی و خشونت زیاد، جزو المان های بارزش بود که البته با توجه به موضوع داستان قابل درک بود. داستان راجع به ماریکا و رابرت هست که به جنگل های پاپوآ در گینه نو سفر کردن که باتوجه به چیزایی که بهش بر میخورن و آخرش بازم زنده میمونن، خیلی جالبه. توصیفش از قبیله های اونجا دقیق هستش. نکته جالبی که داشت این بود که نشون داد با اینکه اونا تکنولوژی ما رو ندارن، اما اصلا هوش پایینی ندارن و ارزششون کمتر از ما نیست. بخش رابطه عاشقانه داستان زیاد به چ ...more
Nov 27, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book suffers from the author failing to heed the cardinal rule of writing: show, don't tell. For example, we're told about the protagonist's murdered father and insane mother. We are never shown these people alive and relating to the protagonist. We're just supposed to swallow the scenario whole, and it doesn't work. The book's third-person-omniscient point of view doesn't help matters. At some point, we're inside the head of nearly every character in the book, being told what they think an ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ahhh...another book set in a warm climate. Marika is a war journalist who after being kidnapped (and escaping) decides to write a book about another war journalist (Robert Lewis). It is believed that he committed suicide. Robert's sister shows Marika a letter written by a missionary who believes that he saw Robert alive and in Papua New Guinea. Marika travels to New Guinea to find the journalist.
I liked the adventure parts of this book. It was interesting to read about her travels across New Gu
Bryn Greenwood
This is one of those books that is both deeply satisfying, yet oddly disappointing. It's clear from the depth of detail that Kira Salak knows Papua New Guinea, its landscape, its people, and its dangers. The parts of the novel that follow journalist Marika Vecera through the PNG jungles in search of her journalistic idol are compelling. The terrain is rough, many of the people hostile to a white woman, and she's tracking a man who is supposed to be dead of suicide.

Alas, the other element of the
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one was worth it for the descriptions of life and travel in PNG, but the writing and overall story wasn't all that.

At one point the main character is held hostage in Congo, but then her transition back to the States leaves a little something to be desired. I am sure that Kira Salak (author) knows what she is talking about, but I wasn't really convinced that the main character was as emotionally bankrupt as we were suppose to believe.

The story line is interesting, but the take-home lesson
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am listening to this as an audiobook, and while the narrator is not helping any, I don't know if I am going to make it through this on its own merits. I should like this story. I like the idea of this story. When the story is focused on the search for Robert Lewis, I do like the story. But...Marika, the main character, is not likable to me, so I am not interested in her motivations. Her love interest, Seb, is a preachy, sanctimonious, new-agey bore. I admit it (somewhat guiltily), I read for p ...more
The White Mary is the gripping and thrilling account of one woman's hellacious journey into the unforgiving jungles of Papua New Guinea and her struggles to get out alive. Marika Vecera is an adventuresome war reporter who is searching for Robert Lewis, a fellow reporter believed to be dead. When Marika finds evidence that Lewis may be alive, she embarks on an expedition halfway across the world to uncover the truth. Her growing unease with her boyfriend Seb's intimacy is just another excuse to ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The arduous journey of journalist Marika Vecera through the jungle, swamps, and mountains of Papua New Guinea to determine the verity of another journalist's (Robert Lewis) suicide forms the basis of this story of survival and redemption. Marika, a Czech immigrant to the US, has a sorrowful past. Her father was the target of a political execution and her mother descended into schizophrenia after his death. Marika was subsequently inspired by the writings of Pulitzer Prize-winning Lewis to become ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to talk about this book without mentioning Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. The two books are kissing cousins, only The White Mary has daredevil journalists instead of corporate scientists, and a journey into Papua New Guinea instead of the Amazon. Both feature conflicted ladies marching off into jungles to hunt down a missing colleague and discovering things about themselves and their existing relationships in the process. And you know what? It turns out this is a formula that I like. ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So, I read this for my book group, which is 9 women in their mid-60s and me. The woman who chose this one has always been rich (she told me once that she has never not had a housekeeper) and until recently did a lot of "exotic" foreign travel. This book seems to suit her very well... and I kind of hated it. A Czech-American war reporter travels to Papua New Guinea to find one of her journalism idols who disappeared. She leaves behind a too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Boston who was *dramatic vo ...more
This is a fascinating story. I received this book as a "First Reads" giveaway win and was anxious to read it. It was a very different story from many I have read recently and to be honest, the brutality, gore, violence and sexual exploitation was a bit graphic for my taste. But due to the nature of the story and the places that Marika and Robert visited, such graphic scenes were so integral to the story. I loved the visual and physical descriptions of her travels through the jungle. I felt like ...more
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: action/adventure lovers who aren't too squeamish
Recommended to Judy by: Chelsea
Shelves: new-guinea
In the The White Mary: A Novel, Marika, a daring journalist, escapes to the uncivilized jungle of Papua New Guinea to find Robert Lewis, a famous journalist reported as dead. Marika's jungle travails mirror her personal life which is fraught with woes over the loss of the one man she truly loved, Seb, her carelessness with her own life, as well as her inability to commit to any relationship.

What I liked:
*Rumor has it, this book is based on Kira Salak's own life. This is believable,since, the de
This was an interesting book. I would actually give it 3 1/2 stars if I could. Since it is told from the POV of a journalist, I of course, enjoyed that aspect of it. Salak's descriptions of Rwanda and Iraq and New Guinea were awesome and I plan to use excerpts in my Multicultural Literature class. I think the only part I didn't like was the actual romance, and that may have been because I listened to this on tape and I hated the narrator's voice for the boyfriend. Regardless, I thought their rel ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was slow going in parts, but worth the read. The main character, Marika, is a war journalist, who travels all over the world to report on injustices, often risking her own life. The author's background made the book more appealing as well. Kira Salak was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea.
Jul 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: armchair adventurerers
Recommended to Angie by: National Geographic Adventure
Some very powerful imagery from this author. The description of the torture committed on Lewis in East Timor was nightmarish, even more so, since it probably really happens.

My favorite character though was Tobo, Marika's guide thru the Papa New Guinea jungle. His musings about the helplessness of the white ones were not only amusing but probably on target!
Reading Challenge: A book a friend recommended.
A good book, well written with a good storyline. But it was kind of serious, which isn't the type of books I usually read. Gives you a glimpse of what it's like to live in the jungle. I would not survive.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I acquired this book because it dealt with the jungles of Papua New Guinea, which is a place that you don't hear much about (here in the US) and I enjoy stories that take place in out-of-the-ordinary settings. My curiosity was also piqued by the fact that the author, Kira Salak, was actually the first Western woman to traverse the interior of Papua New Guinea, and also because she is an editor for National Geographic. I enjoy gaining new perspectives with what I read, and I figured I would defin ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first woman to ever make a solo journey across Papua New Guinea wrote this novel about a character called White Mary who does the same thing.
It's a vivid, realistic tale about traversing a largely impenetrable jungle. The frightening, dangerous situations she encounters on the way to achieving her goal (she's searching for someone) are compelling, and made me grateful I was reading about them from the safety of my couch.
In addition, the backstory on the protagonist is interesting, as is th
William Graney
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read most (or all) of Kira's non-fiction so I know how intense she can be, but reading this novel was like taking a punch to the face. She forces the reader to deal with some very grim realities but the story is also a page-turner and I found it to be a rewarding reading experience. There were times when I thought my dislike of the character Seb was detracting from my appreciation of the book but when it was all said and done, I realized it takes a highly skilled writer to make me dislike a ...more
Heatherbathon802 bathon
So bad. Atrociously poor writing. Drivel. * Spoiler alert - This book is not good.
H Cromwell
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
raw, emotional roller roaster, gripping
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Journalist Kira Salak’s debut novel, //The White Mary//, might make me seriously reconsider my long held doubts about that ancient cliché, “write what you know.” Salak, the first woman to travel overland across Papua New Guinea, brings that experience powerfully to life in the story of a woman’s search through Papua New Guinea for her hero, who has been assumed dead.
Marika Vecera, a hard charging war journalist, takes time off at home after a particularly harrowing near death experience in the C
Angie Fehl
3.5 stars

War correspondent Marika gets word that her journalist idol, Robert Lewis, whose last known whereabouts were believed to be somewhere in Papua New Guinea, has committed suicide. Completely stunned and blindsided by the news, Marika decides to start work on a definitive bio on Lewis' life as a way to channel her grief. In the process of starting work on this book, she gets new information saying that Lewis might in fact still be alive, rumors surfacing that he had been spotted by village
Elevate Difference
Marika Vicera is a war reporter who has dedicated herself to telling the stories of oppressed peoples around the world. She is giving a talk at Boston University when she meets a psychology doctoral student named Sebastian Gilman. Seb, as he is known, is in awe of Marika's war reports, which have landed frequently on the covers of major newspapers. Although Marika doesn't think much of the practice of psychology, she is taken with Seb. Marika takes a break from her globe trotting to write a biog ...more
I am pretty certain that I will never have the opportunity to visit Papua New Guinea, but thanks to author Kira Salak, I feel like I have had a grand tour of this beautiful island. The author s own travels in this country shine through in her writing and lend an authenticity that is sometimes missing in contemporary fiction. My next purchase will be her non-fiction account of traversing the country, Four Corners.[return][return]The White Mary centers on journalist Marika Vecera, who has found fa ...more
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marika Vecera is a journalist with no fear. From the time she was twenty years old she has thrown herself into the most dangerous places on earth for the sake of getting to the heart of whatever conflict, genocide or famine that she is researching. And she has succeeded brilliantly, becoming an award winning writer, though it has cost her dearly. More than she even realizes.

When she meets Seb Gilman and falls in love, she decides that it might be time to take a break. It was easy to place no val
The White Mary is more a story about self discovery than it is about a trip to Papua New Guinea. In fact most of the first half of the book has nothing to do with Papua New Guinea. You do get to know Marika and see all of the things that have happened to her and all of the things she has seen (some of them told in horrifying detail) that have led her to this place, both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately I never found her a very sympathetic character. She often seemed more petulant and se ...more
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book as an advance reader's edition through the amazon Vine program. Not normally the type of book I read, but it sounded interesting.

Kira Salak herself has a very interesting background. If you go to this book on amazon, she has posted some links to photos she took both in the Congo and Papua New Guinea.

The book itself deals with Marika Vecera; a journalist who covers stories in war torn countries. At a talk she meets a psychologist named Seb; who introduces her to happiness and a di
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!

Intense, addictive and at some passages almost unreadable but in a good way, the world
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Adventure Reading: New Guinea adventure 5 14 Aug 04, 2012 04:10AM  
Around the World ...: Discussion for The White Mary 12 49 Jul 26, 2012 10:42PM  
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Kira Salak won the PEN Award for journalism for her reporting on the war in Congo, and she has appeared five times in Best American Travel Writing. A National Geographic Emerging Explorer and contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine, she was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea and the first person to kayak solo 600 miles to Timbuktu. She is the author of three books— ...more
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“What I've learned is that everything in life - and I mean, even the worst of it - can be turned into grace...the test is - for even one moment in our lives - not to strike back at something, no matter how bad it gets...when you're faced with the temptation to get angry or upset and to hit back - you just don't do it. You let the temptation roll over you and not touch you. The idea is not to add to the collective pain...and by not doing so, you make the world a better place.” 4 likes
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