Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The White Mary

The White Mary

A Novel

Kira Salak

Henry Holt and Co.



A young woman journeys deep into the untamed jungle, wrestling with love and loss, trauma and healing, faith and redemption, in this sweeping debut from "the gutsiest woman adventurer of our day" (Book Magazine)

Marika Vecera, an accomplished war reporter, has dedicated her life to helping the world's oppressed and forgotten. When not on one of her dangerous assignments, she lives in Boston, exploring a new relationship with Seb, a psychologist who offers her glimpses of a better world.

Returning from a harrowing assignment in the Congo where she was kidnapped by rebel soldiers, Marika learns that a man she has always admired from afar, Pulitzer-winning war correspondent Robert Lewis, has committed suicide. Stunned, she abandons her magazine work to write Lewis's biography, settling down with Seb as their intimacy grows. But when Marika finds a curious letter from a missionary claiming to have seen Lewis in the remote jungle of Papua New Guinea, she has to wonder, What if Lewis isn't dead?

Marika soon leaves Seb to embark on her ultimate journey in one of the world's most exotic and unknown lands. Through her eyes we experience the harsh realities of jungle travel, embrace the mythology of native tribes, and receive the special wisdom of Tobo, a witch doctor and sage, as we follow her extraordinary quest to learn the truth about Lewis—and about herself, along the way.


Praise for The White Mary

“With The White Mary, journalist Kira Salak makes a stunning debut as a novelist. This is a story whose beauty and power sweeps you along, like the jungle rivers that bear her heroine into the heart of New Guinea in search of a vanished American. In the tradition of Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter, The White Mary is a superb adventure tale that explores the human soul, a tale of a physical journey that frames a spiritual quest for love and meaning in a world sadly deficient in both.” —Philip Caputo

“One cannot write well about people risking their lives without having done it oneself; suffice it to say that Kira Salak is profoundly convincing on the topic. Salak's got it: That ability to capture the world in all its beauty and darkness and violence without romanticizing it. This is a book borne of the years that Salak spent as a journalist and traveler in some of the most terrifying places in the world, but she has held on to her basic humanity through it all. That essential humanity is what elevates The White Mary--and all of Salak's work--from mere ‘adventure writing' to true literature. The reader is changed by it--changed in the same way Salak must have been, many times over, in the writing of it. This is a truly inspiring book about the kind of place I have spent many years reporting from. There is no doubt: She nailed it.” —Sebastian Junger

“Minutely observed and utterly mesmerizing . . . rendered in Salak's artfully unadorned, fast-paced prose--a style reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, with an ample supply of his bleakness and violence. There are also shades of Heart of Darkness . . . both books are obsessive searches through inhospitable lands for a lost soul.” —Michael Finkel, National Geographic Adventure

“There are echoes of Heart of Darkness in this riveting novel about a globe-trotting American journalist's attempt to track down a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent who is supposed to have committed suicide in New Guinea but is rumored to be alive. . . [Salak's] first-hand knowledge of jungle life there yields many harrowing, unforgettable passages.” —John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Kira Salak

Kira Salak has won the PEN award for journalism and appeared five times in Best American Travel Writing. She is a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine and was the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea; her nonfiction account of that trip, Four Corners, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2001. Her fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices and other publications.

Kira Salak

Lane Eklund

Kira Salak