The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell was our book club book for December. The first time I heard about this book was about a year ago from one of the members of our book club who was raving about it. The next day, I looked at the back cover at the library and dismissed it because it is about the Jesuits making first contact with an alien race. What? It sounded like a ridiculous premise. Over time, I heard more and more people who I trust rave about this book so I was not as hesitant when my husband chose it as his book club selection.
I’m so glad I read The Sparrow. It is a beautifully moving story of a group of people who travel to the planet, Rakhat, to make contact with the species there. The novel goes back and forth between the story of the lone survivor after the fact and the story of the mission from its inception. Russell’s strength in the The Sparrow is her characterizations. If you are a fan of strongly developed characters, you will enjoy this novel whether or not you usually enjoy science fiction. I was so attached to each of the characters that I cried when bad things would happen to them. That is not a spoiler because you know there is only one survivor from the first pages of the novel.
Russell’s treatment of religion in this novel was surprisingly even-handed. My book club is made up of atheists, agnostics, and religious/spiritual people of varying degrees and everyone was happy with the way she approached matters of faith.
Why are you still reading this review? Go read The Sparrow!