The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Goodreads description: In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer
Why I picked this book up: Andi from Estella’s Revenge loved it. Her review and video about the book are much better than anything I’ll say here, so you should check them out. I picked it up in October I think, and finished it right around New Years.
Why I wussed: Since the book is separated into different times, you know the outcome of the mission pretty early in the book. Part of the story is getting to know the characters and before the mission, parts are during the mission, and parts are after the return. You find out who survives and who doesn’t early on. (This is a trend with my wussing! With The Book Thief, I knew what would happen to Rudy. I can’t know what will happen or I will pause out!) There was also a very specific part of the story that dealing with hands that had a large part in my pausing.
Why I was determined to finish: I was curious, the writing was lovely and I was attached to all of the characters. I thought about it so much during my time away from it.
Was the wussing justified: Not completely. Everything happens and is what it is, but the book didn’t dwell on certain occasions like I expected it to. What I was really worried about didn’t have as huge of an impact as I expected. I wish I had just read it all the way through and not lost any momentum!
Book thoughts: This book is so lovely and heartbreaking in a “will make you think and think again” way. The characters feel real. The group that goes on the mission are so lovely and have to do something incredibly challenging. The new planet is strange with strange beings and customs. Christian explorers that set out to see more of God’s creation and to learn about them and share knowledge with them. They struggle with so many different things with the inhabitants, and things do not always meet their expectations. Not every member of the team was a believer, there were atheists and agnostics. Every believer on the team had their struggles with faith, including and maybe especially Emilio the Jesuit linguist and center of the story. His faith is challenged exponentially when he is exquisitely happy.
So much of this book made me wonder and examine myself. It’s heartbreaking but so lovely. I think this is definitely a book I want to reread at some point. I’m curious about the sequel Children of God and might check it out at some point.
Have you read The Sparrow? Does it sound like something you might enjoy?