This is less a travel book than the memoir of the author’s emotional journey. Kira Salak seems to be a professional adventurer, which is pretty cool, and she’s also a compelling storyteller, bringing to life her experience traveling around New Guinea’s swamps, rainforests, mountains, crime-ridden cities, and even a rebel refugee camp, in 1995. What she does not do quite so well is illuminate the lives of the people she meets; she’s in New Guinea to discover herself.
And I get the sense she’s spent a lot of time analyzing herself, and no wonder, having received more than her share of dysfunction being raised by evangelical Objectivist parents, and feeling compelled to go off on life-threatening journeys to prove herself. But she was 24 when she took this trip and only a few years older when she wrote about it, and some of the ways she describes her emotional experiences seem a little simplistic. I also couldn’t help but shake my head at her idea that she was going to recover from the trauma of a previous kidnapping (also on a dangerous trip) by traveling through another dangerous place where, unfamiliar with the environment, she would be at the mercy of strangers. It’s no wonder this doesn’t really work for her… or it doesn’t seem to, until the epilogue, which wraps everything up rather too neatly; insisting, for instance, that she wasn’t taught to fear like other girls, when she spent most of the preceding 400 pages preoccupied with danger and fear. Her threshold for what she’s willing to do anyway is certainly higher than most women’s, but she rarely feels safe enough on this trip to enjoy herself.
That said, Salak does write well about the places she experienced: the grueling hikes through swamps and mountains; the wonder of a helicopter ride over the jungle; the tragedy of the refugees from the western portion of New Guinea, victims of genocide from Indonesia; the hubris of missionaries trying to drag locals into a modern way of life. When she does write about locals, it’s really quite good; I loved reading about the calm swamp village where tiny children learned to paddle in tiny canoes, and she was taken in by a man who had no plates or silverware because his wife took them all when she left and moved across the road. And for that matter, about the truck drivers in Mozambique, where Salak’s early attempt at adventure got her in well over her head. But she rarely stays in one place long, and I was left wanting to learn more about these people: for instance, about the women living away from their families at the YWCA in Port Moresby, despite rampant crime there.
Overall, this was enjoyable reading; it seems a bit long for what it is, but Salak has such an intense and varied journey that I’m not sure what could be cut. I think this book is worth reading, though if your primary interest in it is learning about New Guinea, you may come away frustrated.
The ending made me cry. The first time I read it, I don't think I saw this story as being sad, but now that I am older, the reality of it is that this is a really sad story. You've got the woman in black's pain that drove her to do what she does, the town people's pain who suffer the spirits hauntings, and then that ending... I really enjoyed the writing style. It flowed beautifully.
The scene with the dog... oh my gosh!
It survives, don't worry.
It is day 5 of the Books in The Freezer readathon. 5 challenges, 1 down, 1 halfway down.
I have read Frankenstein, the original 1818 text by Mary Shelly. Third time reading it. Still a 4 star rating. I have feelings, but I can't get a proper review down for this book. I will say, I am more on the "Monster's" side, though of course I don't agree some of the stuff he did, part of me can understand why he did those things, though.
I am 50% into The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
[I usually hate movie covers, and it is weird to have "Harry Potter's" face plastered on the cover, but I kinda like this cover.]
Next book on the agenda is Ordinary Souls by J.S. Bailey.
I'm really excited about the idea of reading spooky books during October. I say I love horror books, but my Goodreads would suggest otherwise because it is probably the genre I read the least. I want to broaden my horizons and read more horror and other books I don't automatically reach for.
Not related to this readathon, but my copy of Paperbacks from Hell is in at Barnes and Noble. I'm excited to buy it!
[How many books will this book make me put on my TBR?]
About the readathon:
Books in the Freezer is a podcast celebrating their 1 year anniversary.
Owners of podcast (from their website)
Stephanie lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, son, Beagle and cat. When she’s not working on the podcast, she makes YouTube videos, and watches horror movies (as research for the podcast of course!)
Rachel lives in Canada with her husband and hedgehog, Vegeta. She makes YouTube videos on her channel TheShadesofOrange where she reviews horror, thrillers, and sci-fi books.
Books In The Freezer Readathon - Oct 1-15th
[Frankenstein by Mary Shelley]
[Ordinary Souls by J.S. Bailey]
[Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde]
[The Women in Black by Susan Hill]
[The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson]