Title: The White Mary
Author: Kira Salak
Genre: Contemporary fiction, multi-cultural fiction
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.