(Mis)Judging Books By Their Covers
I finished a book this morning that sat on my shelf for almost a year. I passed it by time and again without giving it a second glace because the cover and synopsis never grabbed me: A female travel writer chasing an elusive ghost through the wilds of Papua New Guinea. Before picking up this novel I would have been hard-pressed to find PNG on a map and considered my trip to Istanbul, Turkey exotic and daring.
The White Mary by Kira Salak took me to places I’ve never been and forced me to confront horrors and atrocities that are beyond my scope of comprehension. Salak is a travel writer with PhD in English who The New York Times describes as a “…tough, real-life Laura Croft”.
According to her biographical information, she’s survived war-zones, malaria, cholera, and has witnessed the aftermath of coup-attempts and genocides. She backpacked the Pacific Island nation of PNG at age 24, becoming the first woman to do so. In short, she’s put herself into extreme situations, traveling to hostile and war-torn countries that inhabitants flee from.
The White Mary was a raw and visceral book with imagery so vivid that Salak seemed to blur the line of fiction and the reality of her own experiences. Written in the aftermath of her brother’s unexpected death, the novel seems to be an intensely personal catharsis for Salak. The protagonist of the novel, Marika Vecera, is running down a specter, chasing after wisps of hope in an effort to find an elusive journalist who reportedly committed suicide.
I can’t believe that I almost missed such a profound novel just because the cover art didn’t grab me. Incidentally, the cover of my book is different than the newer cover but neither grab me. Now I have a resolution for 2010: Don’t judge books by their covers.
Have you ever passed a book by just because of the cover only to read it later and LOVE it?