Title: “The White Mary“
Author: Kira Salak
Format: Paperback ARC
Number of Pages: 351
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Date of Publication: August 5, 2008
4 stars: An Enthralling Jungle Adventure
“Beauty intrudes upon her. Flocks of red and green parrots. Butterflies of blue and gold dancing over the black waters. Crowned pigeons with their regal headdresses of gray plumage. She would like to know this beauty, not just see it.”
(“The White Mary” pg 3*)
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book, considering most of the reviews I’ve seen have either loved it or hated it. After reading it, I find that I’m somewhere in the middle, but leaning more toward the ‘loved it’ group. Like many of the books I’ve recently read, this book floats between the past and the present. Marika, the main character, is a journalist who returns from the Congo and decides to write a biography about the dead journalist who inspired her to take up the profession. “The White Mary” starts out later- when Marika is in Papua New Guinea- searching for that journalist after hearing he may still be alive. While I found the Papua New Guinea (PNG from now on) parts to be the better parts of the book, it took me awhile to get into them. I would have preferred to start the book with chapter 2- which takes place in Boston, and introduces us to Markia instead of jumping right into Marika’s journey through PNG.
I felt that once everything was explained, for example why Markia was in PNG, what sent her there… etc, the book flowed nicely. Honestly when I finished I couldn’t believe that there was so much to read about PNG without it seeming repetitive. But everything seemed fresh and unique, and made me thank God that I was not going through it! Besides the way the book began, there was only one thing that annoyed me. Throughout the story, “The White Mary” is told from different points of view. While Marika tells the majority, part of it is told by her guide Tobo. Everything he ‘thinks’ is in English, with the exception of a few words scattered here and there which are not in English and are italicized. I just didn’t see the need to have them.
After finishing this book, I really did wonder if this had happened to the author, Kira Salak. After all, she’s a journalist who traveled to PNG and many of her experiences inspired this novel. I wonder if there was a certain journalist who inspired her to write, and if he or she disappeared. And maybe, just maybe, she searched in PNG? Only Salak knows the truth, but in any case her fictional account is one that I would recommend to those looking for an adventure.
*these lines may change in the final publication of the book
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