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Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea Paperback – November 1, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“It is, like all the best travel narratives, a resonant interior journey, and offers wisdom for our times.”
—Edward Marriott, author of The Lost Tribe

“Kira Salak is tough, a real life Lara Croft…unlike many travel writers, she is hip to her inner workings.”
New York Times

“Kira Salak is a rare find – a gifted storyteller who is also a daring journeywoman.”
—Mary Morris, author of Nothing To Declare: Memoir of a Woman Travelling Alone

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"It is, like all the best travel narratives, a resonant interior journey, and offers wisdom for our times."
--Edward Marriott, author of The Lost Tribe

"Kira Salak is tough, a real life Lara Croft...unlike many travel writers, she is hip to her inner workings."
--New York Times

"Kira Salak is a rare find - a gifted storyteller who is also a daring journeywoman."
--Mary Morris, author of Nothing To Declare: Memoir of a Woman Travelling Alone

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; Reprint edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792274172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792274179
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is well written, is an engaging story and discusses a very important topic--to this day, the atrocities happening against the Papuans by the Indonesian military represent one of the worst, albeit one of the least known, humanitarian outrages occurring in the world. Unfortunately, this book, although being passed off as a factual account of Ms. Salak's journey, plays very loosely with facts and is highly fictionalized.

I know this because I am one of the "characters" in this book. My father is "Doug Larsen", the villainous missionary portrayed in the chapter "Hungarian Delights". The description in this portion of the book is almost entirely fictitious. No, we didn't live in an air conditioned white mansion. Although our house was made of "Western" materials (lumber and corrugated iron) it was powered solely by 9 30 watt solar panels and could never have been air conditioned--even if it had had glass windows, which it didn't. The electricity was used primarily to run a freezer for vaccinations, and we had an emergency generator which we almost never used due to the difficulty and expense of getting fuel to such a remote spot. And of course the house wasn't white. Anyone who has been to the lowlands of PNG would know the futility of trying to paint a house white. Our "running water" was rain collection that was entirely hand pumped (yes, we pumped it ourselves). And we never had delicacies such as strawberries the entire time we were there--almost all the food we ate was local (actually quite good, but for the most part, the same thing the locals ate). Of course the idea that a SDA would spend Saturday morning at home eating brunch will make anyone laugh who is familiar with the religion.
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Format: Paperback
This book COMPLETELY engaged me from beginning to end. It tells the story of a young woman drawn to danger and adventure in one of the most remote locations on earth. She reaches distant tribes that haven't seen any white people, where the kids all run off in terror, thinking she's yellow-haired ghost. She spends time with other tribes still practicing cannibalism, puts up with unsavory local traders, meets shamans and fanatical missionaries and all manner of colorful characters. This is an adventure book on two different levels--we not only learn about the fascinating country of New Guinea, but we learn what drove Ms. Salak to go on such a dangerous and remarkable journey. And more incredibly, she went on this journey ALONE. My hat goes off to her.

If you're looking for some dry, academic kind of book on New Guinea culture--like the previous reviewer seemed to be--then I suggest you go to the library and pick up some scientific journals and go nuts. But if you'd like a great, really readable adventure story that will hold your interest from beginning to end, that won't be a waste of your time or money, then this is the book for you. I've shared this gem with all of my friends--world backpackers and arm-chair travelers alike--and they all loved it.
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Format: Paperback
Being keen on New Guinea biota, I have been working to collect all the literature I can on the area. Most resources one finds are by missionaries, anthropologists, or military stories of World War II. Fairly useless for learning of the flora and fauna. Thus, seeing a book of a peregrination along hundreds of miles of lowland territory was intriguing.

Now, I'll concede there are no rules for writing a book about exotic adventures. However, I *did* have some preconceived expectations of travel writing about such an exotic destination.

I did not expect her to spend 1/10th of the book talking about how dangerous Africa is. I did not expect her to mention how dangerous PNG is on nearly every page, and manage to elaborate on it over and over with each mention. If she wants to cross PNG, sure, admit it can be a little dangerous. However, it gets old reading it page after page after page.

I really feel as though she could have packed twice as much information into the pages as she did. I felt as though I got to know few of the characters, and there was scant mention of the background settings. It was all about her, her thoughts, and how she is growing as a person. Now, this is all fine and dandy for some people, but I really wanted to read more about the characters she encountered, adventures she took. It was her book and she is allowed to write as she pleases. It just was NOT what I expected.

I especially find it incredible how she was able to cross the main landmass, and write so little about the flora and fauna she encountered. New Guinea is a mecca for wildlife, and you could write entire books on the subjects you find in 1 metre square. There is almost no mention of any plants or animals.

Despite my criticism, Ms.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read many travel adventure books,, this is one of the best I've EVER read. Kira has a Phd. in English literature, so it's well-written. Her tale starts out in southern Africa, where she makes the insane decision to cross Mozambique (alone) during its 30+ year civil war. I wondered if she had a death wish. Kira details her strange childhood; being raised by Ayn Rand fanatics who didn't believe in loving their children or celebrating birthdays. To fill the void, Kira decides to travel. Her harrowing, near fatal experience with rebel soldiers in Mozambique sets up her journey to cross Papua New Guinea, by river & trekking, alone. This book was so involving that I couldn't put it down, but I didn't want it to end either. I would have read another 200 pages. As Kira travels & meets ex-pats, tribal people, missionaries (whom all loathe the tribal customs & the tribal people) & guerrilla fighters (fighting the genocide, that's being committed on the New Guinean tribes that live over the border in Irian Jaya, by the Indonesian government), she grows in confidence & begins to discover that she is okay just the way she is: she's worthy of love. Kira's bravery against potential rapists is extraordinary, her ability to learn pidgin & relate to the tribes is wonderful. Kira's travel to the deepest regions of PNG & her descriptions of the different colors of the rain forest, the Birds of Paradise, the colorful headdresses worn by the tribesmen make you feel like you're right there with her. It's a grueling journey; a trek up & down a jungle mountain in a torrential rainstorm at night, barefoot, but she overcomes every obstacle. This is an empowering book for women. My only regret is that Kira didn't bring a camera (this was before digital cameras) so there are no photos.Read more ›
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