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The White Mary: A Novel
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The White Mary: A Novel

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  880 ratings  ·  219 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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3.76  · 
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 ·  880 ratings  ·  219 reviews

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I loved this book!

The story revolves around war correspondent Marika Vecera. After returning from the Congo, she gets disturbing news that another well-known war reporter, and hero to her, has committed suicide in Papua, New Guinea.

She decides to honor his memory by writing his biography. In the midst of this, she receives word from a credible source that he is still alive. Determined to find out the truth, and leaving behind a new love interest, she travels to the jungles of Papua.

There she i
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The White Mary is a fictional story about a tough as nails war reporter, Marika Vecera, who hears that her idol in the j0urnalist world--Robert Lewis has committed suicide. She starts working on his biography and along the way gets word that a missionary claims to have seen Lewis alive. Marika leaves Boston and the relationship that she has alternately been nurturing and killing to search for Lewis in Papua New Guinea. I love the comparison made by Publisher's Weekly that this story is a cross b ...more
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
Jul 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character heads off into the jungle to hunt down a missing colleague and discovers things about herself and her relationships in the process. The description of the life-threatening journey is compelling, but the back story almost became an annoyance to the plot.
Heatherbathon802 bathon
So bad. Atrociously poor writing. Drivel. * Spoiler alert - This book is not good.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely fantastic!! I was captivated by this perfectly told story. I would certainly recommend this book!
Jody Brouwers
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. I couldn’t put it down. An interesting story about risk, trauma, adventure, and high risk journalism.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story. Good adventure. fits in with my endangered journalist reading lately.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book club read for me. I loved Marika, what a determined woman! And, the travel was amazing, the good and the bad. I want to read more Kira Salak books!
Book Heart
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kira Salak is such an icon to not only woman, but everyone. Her initiative and drive allowed her to be the first woman to travel through Papua New Guinea and the beauty of the way she describes Marika's surroundings reflects the truth of Kira actually travelling through the jungle.
Every single character in this book is so dynamic. Their feelings, actions, and views on things change right before your eyes in between the lines. You can physically feel Marika pushing back her fears and demons and t
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
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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.” 5 likes
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