Yep, I've done this twice. Considering the fact that I kept insisting that today's date would be August 2 in spite of the fact that I keep checking to see if a certain new release movie will be playing on August 1, it's kind of understandable that ALL of my dates would be totally out of whack!
Yesterday, in a desperate attempt to catch up, I decided to set my kitchen timer and devote a certain set amount of time to each of the books in my stack. I only ended up doing two and of those two, I now have around 350 pages left to read. Doable. I still have two more that haven't been touched, ugh!
Anyway, Kira Salak's fiction debut, White Mary, did get some attention yesterday and I wanted to share. In White Mary, journalist Marika Vecera travels to remote Papua New Guinea in search of her idol Richard Lewis. Marika, an immigrant from the Czech Republic, came across one of Lewis's articles at a very important time of her life. Her schizophrenic mother had been institutionalized, and Marika was in court with family members who were accepting responsibility for her so that she would be allowed to attend boarding school - a decision that was beyond her mother in her current state.
Lewis's article was about how he helped smuggle a Czech author out of the country and to safety. For Marika, the man in the article could be her own father, except for the fact that he was killed years ago. It is at this point that Marika decides to do what Lewis does - to make a name for herself in the journalism world by traveling to the most dangerous and war-torn countries and reporting on her experiences. At 35 she has accomplished just that. In fact, she's become one of the only female journalists to take on stories of her kind.
After narrowly escaping the Congo with her life, Marika returns to Boston where she learns that Lewis, now age 52, is dead from an apparent suicide. At this moment Marika vows to write Lewis's biography and learn what could possibly have forced her hero to suicide. In the course of her research, Marika finds a letter from a missionary posted in Papua New Guinea. The missionary, written off as a flake by Lewis's sister, claims to have seen Lewis in the country. Unfortunately, the missionary is dead. Marika sets off on her own, using her life savings to trek through Papua New Guinea and finally learn the truth about Richard Lewis.
Marika's journey is a harrowing one, both mentally and physically. For me, there are some truly shocking and cringe-worthy sections of this book. It's fantastic, though! Kira Salak prefaces the tale by explaining that many of Marika's experiences are based on her own. Her first book, Four Corners, tells the tale of her own journey through Papua New Guinea.
Salak, a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure, has been awarded to PEN award for journalism. Both her fiction and non-fiction pieces have also appeared in Best American Travel Writing and Best New American Voices, to name a few. White Mary was one of the favorites being passed around BEA and has earned her much buzz in the literary world. I can tell you that it is well deserved. Mary is utterly gripping. It's a page-turner to be sure, but one that begs to be savored with every page - not one to be read in one sitting (although you will desperately want to!) but one to take your time and really think over.
White Mary should definitely go on everyone's fall reading list. Official release is Tuesday, August 5.