The White Mary by Kira Salak

I have always been a fan of travel and adventure books, both fiction and non-fiction, which is what drew me to Kira Salak’s book, The White Mary. Although the book is a work of fiction, she drew on her long experience as a travel journalist to present a story full of detail and vibrant description. It is immediately apparent that the author hasn’t just watched a National Geographic Special on Papua New Guinea, she has actually been through that jungle. It adds tremendously to the story.

Marika is a travel journalist who has been to some of the most violent and dangerous places on the planet. She lost her father when she was very young; he was executed in Czechoslovakia as a spy. She lost her mother to mental illness – more gradual, but no less painful. She has risked her life countless times in her need to tell a story. That need and that lifestyle have kept her separated from other people. Separation is comfortable for her, since so many important people in her life have left her.

Her current project is the biography of one of her heroes, the man who inspired her to become a journalist, Robert Lewis. While reviewing some background materials, she finds a letter from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis recently, in Papua New Guinea. Fleeing problems in her personal life, Marika heads for PNG, looking for her own Holy Grail.

There are a few things that bother me in this book. Marika is a bit of a superwoman – no matter what the jungle throws at her, she keeps on going. Seb, her boyfriend back in Boston, is too good to be true. He’s handsome, rich, single, understanding…absolutely perfect. Her native guide, Tobo, is also too good to be true, never deserting her, even when she’s obviously a little nuts.

Still, this is a great tale of adventure, a story about finding yourself, a story about the futility of running from your problems.

My copy of The White Mary was an Advance Reader Copy. You can preorder your copy here.

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