Book Review: The White Mary by Kira Salak

Title: The White Mary
Author: Kira Salak
Genre: Contemporary fiction, multi-cultural fiction
Publisher: Picador
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from publisher
First line: The black waters of Elobi Creek show no sign of a current.

The White Mary is the story of Marika Vecera, a journalist whose job involves traveling to the most violent and dangerous places in the world. She has seen in person horrors that most of us couldn’t bear to even hear described.

When Marika hears of the suicide of Robert Lewis, a journalist whom she idolized, she decides to write a biography of his life. During her research, she reads a letter from an American missionary who is certain he has seen the supposedly-dead Lewis in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Marika is involved in her first ever healthy relationship, but her own demons prevent her from fully giving herself over to Seb, her boyfriend. She decides to head to Papua New Guinea in the hopes of tracking down the possibly alive Lewis.

I’m not quite sure what I think of this book. On the one hand, it is extremely well-written. The descriptions of the Congo and the jungles of Papua New Guinea are breathtaking in their detail. Salak fully demonstrates the physical horrors of what Marika experiences while held hostage in Africa, and the toll the jungles of PNG take on her body. I appreciated the honesty and emotion with which the story was written.

But, I can’t really say that I loved it. I disliked the way that the author used the character’s sexual experiences to portray her emotional state. Many of the scenes were so explicit, even brutal, in my opinion. I think there are other ways to portray what a person is going through emotionally than through how they experience sex.

I also found the scenes of Marika’s emotional “redemption” unbelievable. They just didn’t play as realistic to me. However, I have read many other reviews of The White Mary that are full of praises, so it could just be me.

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10 Responses to Book Review: The White Mary by Kira Salak

  1. heidenkind says:

    So… is this like, a love story? This doesn’t seem like the type of book where I would expect to find explicit sex.
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Thoughts on Around the World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Tasha – no, it is definitely not a love story – there are relationships in it, but romance is not the focus.

  2. Sounds interesting and a little strange at the same time. I’m not sure I understand the use of sexual experiences that way either.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I know that the content didn’t bother other bloggers as much as I did, so maybe it wouldn’t bother you, either. The parts about working as a photojournalist is really interesting.

  3. softdrink says:

    This has been languishing on my shelf for the past year or so.
    .-= softdrink´s last blog ..Books =-.

  4. amy s. says:

    sounds intriguing even if it’s middling per your rating. I always like reading about journalists.
    .-= amy s.´s last blog ..ART: Nasturtiums at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Amy – yes, it definitely was intriguing – I think you’d probably really like this one.

  5. nomadreader
    Twitter: nomadreader
    says:

    The description sounds amazing, and I’m curious to read other reviews now. If you’re inclined to like books about female journalists in exotic and dangerous locations, I recommend Making It Up As I Go Along by Maria T. Lennon. It’s a book I happened upon on a library display when it first came out, but it has really stuck with me. Unfortunately, she hasn’t written any other books yet, but I love that one.
    .-= nomadreader´s last blog ..culinary road trip: Providence, Rhode Island =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Carrie – thanks for the recommendation – I’ll definitely look it up!