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Friday, July 18, 2008

The White Mary by Kira Salak

While on a sort of "working vacation" I finished reading The White Mary by Kira Salak. I'm having some difficulty writing a review of this book. Not because the book isn't good, quite the contrary, it is a very good novel. I think the problem is that this novel is difficult to categorize. The novel follows a young journalist, Marika Vecera, as she risks her life in war zones throughout the world. The atrocities she documents and the threats to her own life are portrayed with such detail, you wonder if the author of the novel has lived this herself.

Marika admires another older journalist, Robert Lewis, and aspires to emulate his life. When he commits suicide, she focuses her energies on writing a biography about him. In her research, she stumbles across a letter to his sister indicating that he may still be alive and living in the deepest jungles of Papua New Guinea. Marika enters the jungle to search with a primitive tribal guide. Again, the novel is written with such detail that you wonder how much time the author herself has spent amongst these primitive tribes far from civilization.

Although the novel is a wonderful story, part travelogue, part National Geographic/Discovery Channel special, it is ultimately a story about Marika and her personal journey toward discovering all that life has to offer us. It is a story about the choices we all have that can bring us either happiness, contentment and joy; or keep us restless, unfulfilled and alone. The book shows masterfully that striving for peace and happiness in one's life isn't merely an invention of the civilized world, but something everyone, from primitive tribal shaman's to educated PhD's seeks.

I found this an interesting novel, well written and completely enjoyable. Marika draws conclusions in the end, that seem to coincide with my own perspectives on life. I certainly have never lived a life like Marika's and never will, but I have always believed that being happy is a choice we can all make for ourselves.