Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
published 1997
448 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

The Sparrow, an astonishing literary debut, takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul. It is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a twenty-first-century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture. Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the mission's sole survivor — only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission's failure.

My thoughts -

Have you ever read a book that took your breath away? Have you ever fallen in love with a character who broke your heart? Have you ever had to put a novel down, because reading even one more word would be too much? If so, you know how I feel about The Sparrow.

From the beginning, I was gripped by the story. Russell's characters are so rich and complex, so utterly complete in their humanity, that I couldn't imagine what could have gone so horribly wrong. It's not a spoiler to say that their story does not end well - the reader is given this information almost immediately. But that does not lessen the anticipation, the unease, as Russell slowly unravels the threads of Emilio's story. It does not keep the reader from hoping for the best for these characters you have grown to love, and to feel the devastation when the end inevitably arrives.

There is so much to digest in the reading of this novel. The idea of family, both the family one is born with and the family one creates. The reality of the difficulties of truly understanding a culture that is foreign to our own. The human desire to understand the evil that is done in the world. The search for God, and the conflict between what we as humans want God to be, and what God truly is. Russell does not give easy answers - in fact, often there are no answers at all. But the journey is so authentic and real that it couldn't be any other way.

"For he could not feel God or approach God as a friend or speak to God with the easy familiarity of the devout or praise God with poetry. And yet, as he had grown older, the path he had started down almost in ignorance had begun to seem clearer to him. It became more apparent to him that he was truly called to walk this strange and difficult, this unnatural and unutterable path to God, which required not poetry or piety but simple endurance and patience. No one could know what this meant to him."

I've heard for several years that this novel was beloved by many - now I've joined their ranks. I had high expectations, and they were exceeded. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It will be one that I read again and again.

Finished - 8/31/13
Source - my kindle
MPAA rating - R - this is a tough, adult novel
My rating - 10/10

I read this novel for The Estella Project - and I completed the project! Yay for me!!


bermudaonion said...


Amy said...

Yayyyy! This is one of my favorite books and I love it so much! I'm so glad to hear you liked it, too!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Ah, I have to reread this. There were bits of writing that were just so gorgeous, but I don't remember the book as a whole nearly as well as I'd like. Are you planning to read the sequel?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Isn't this one incredible!

mar10123 said...

Just finished. So profoundly moving, disturbing, and beautiful. This is One. Great. Writer.

mar10123 said...

btw - what was the significance of the title?ultuar