The Sparrow


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My mother had me pegged at a very young age. I remember walking into her bedroom as she put down the book Transformed Temperaments by Tim LaHaye and smiled at twelve-year-old me. Sure enough, even as a child, melancholic me was more likely to be writing poetry than playing sports or crying over a poignant novel than hanging out with friends.

And as I grow, or try to grow, in virtue and in prayer and in union with the Father who made me that way, it is still a valuable tool for identifying predominant faults, much-needed virtues, and strengths to build upon. All the graces we are given, through prayer and sacraments and the generous outpouring of a loving God, act upon the raw material of our nature. Understanding that nature allows us to be more supple to the work of God as He perfects it and more loving towards those around us who are also works in progress.

Primarily as a parent, I have found the understanding of the temperaments to be invaluable as I cooperate with God in raising young children -and some of them not so young anymore-who seem to respond to me, to the world, and to the work of God within it in vastly different ways. The theory of the temperaments predates Christianity; Hippocrates c. This theory has survived through the centuries in its ancient form, which is the classification of four types: sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic.

Now, however, it is accepted as a psychological reality rather than a biological one. And some prominent spiritual theologians, such as Fr. Jordan Aumann, point out that the study of this reality is helpful in that beautiful, mysterious process—the sanctification of the human soul. Our temperament is not our entire personality but is an important aspect of it. Primarily it explains how the human person tends to react to stimuli. Meaning, how easily are you motivated or triggered? How long do you stay fired up? There are all sorts of traits that seem to be connected to this part of our personality.

Although no one has one temperament in a pure, exclusive form, it is widely believed and easy to observe that each human person has a predominant temperament. Most often two seem to dominate the personality; usually one will be greater and one lesser. Two describe more extroverted personality types: sanguine and choleric are generally more outgoing, while the phlegmatic and melancholic tend to be more reserved and introverted. The reactions of the sanguine person are quick and short-lived. He is easily aroused and quick to forget.

He enjoys experiences and the company of others and is a favorite at parties for his warm and vivacious personality. He will have many friends, at least on the surface level, and be interested in many things, but may not have the attention span to master them. This, of course, could also be his downfall, and coupled with impulsivity, could make him prone to sins against chastity and temperance. He will have to work hard to master himself but if he does, can be a great contributor to the Kingdom, evangelizing his many friends and drawing them into the greatest adventure to be had.

Peter seemed to have many traits of the sanguine. Spontaneous and impulsive, he was ready to drop nets, put up tents or cut off ears at the spur of the moment. Before the Holy Spirit had transformed him, he proved to be inconstant when questioned about his friendship with Jesus during the Passion. I can be tempted to discouragement as I look back over what can sometimes seem like missed opportunities. Toggle navigation. Discernment , Everyday Holiness , parenthood , prayer.

Continue reading His expedition to Rakhat was twenty years earlier by Earth's count, but thanks to the effects of relativity, it has only been a few months since he was rescued—and though forty-five years passed on Earth while he was gone, he only spent three years on Rakhat. Emilio is the sole survivor of an ill-fated voyage of discovery, a victim of cultural miscommunication and physical assaults, and a prisoner of his guilt and self-pity. After the disappointing anti-linear narrative that was Time's Arrow , MDR's use of flashbacks is a nice reassurance that non-linear storytelling still works.

Moreover, MDR's attempt to use foreshadowing and dramatic irony to create suspense works where Martin Amis' fails miserably. The Sparrow begins in , with Emilio rescued and returned to Earth. He is incoherent and inconsolable, but the reports from the rescue team include scandalous, horrifying facts: they found him in the equivalent of a brothel, and he killed the child who guided them to him.

The Emilio Sandoz of , the dreamer, the community activist, is not capable of such actions. How does he become the broken man we meet at the beginning of the book? Every moment spent on the story of the expedition is tainted by the knowledge that everyone except Emilio dies, knowledge made all the more tragic by MDR's great characterization of Jimmy Quinn, Sofia Mendes, and Anne and George Edwards. I didn't expect to fall for the love triangle between Jimmy, Sofia, and Emilio. I groaned at first, worried that this subplot might derail parts of the larger story.

If anything, the love triangle had the reverse effect, for it added another dimension to Emilio's struggle with his faith in God. He goes to Rakhat because he knows that, somehow, he has spent his whole life preparing for this mission. And until now, his vow of celibacy has never troubled him, unlike some priests. But he never really confronts the issue until they arrive on Rakhat. He acknowledges the attraction is there, which is better than an outright denial, but he does not confront his feelings.

As a result of their proximity on Rakhat, however, he can no longer ignore the budding romance between Jimmy and Sofia, and Emilio realizes he must make a choice. He does not seem to find this choice difficult, but it is telling. Emilio is a man of God. Despite his threats during his recovery to leave the Society, he has always placed his faith in having a purpose as revealed to him by a higher power. This philosophy gives him strength—and so when it fails him, it is all the more devastating.

This juxtaposition of religion and exploration fascinates me. MDR draws explicit comparisons to other missionary activities where priests have met resistance, torture, even death. This is slightly different, however, because any remote tribe of human beings is still a group of humans. There is still, at some level, a basic shared frame of reference. The Runa and Jana'ata, in contrast, are literally alien beings. In her depiction of them, MDR brings to bear her education in her cultural and biological anthropology, much to her credit.

The predator-prey social hierarchy of the Jana'ata and Runa, respectively, along with the strict population controls is a depiction both alien yet easily comprehensible. The Rakhatians are not as terrifyingly different as, say, the Oankali from Lilith's Brood , yet they are no less dangerous. If anything, their moments of human-like reactions disarms the expedition. It becomes all too easy to forget that a person like Supaari is not merely a merchant of a foreign land.

He is a predator, one with different rules. The Runa and Jana'ata both share some traits in common with humans, but they are not human. It's this discrepancy, and his failure to keep it in mind, that threatens Emilio's faith. From the beginning, the Rakhat expedition feels like it is blessed. First there is the miracle of detecting the radio transmissions and realizing what they are.

Then the Society confirms Emilio's choice of his friends as members of the expedition—even Anne, stubborn and reticent, eventually decides to go. They find an appropriate asteroid and make the journey to Alpha Centauri without issue. The planet's atmosphere and vegetation are hospitable; D. The lack of explanation behind D. The Runa are amiable hosts; even Supaari's overtures are promising.

After so much good fortune, everything goes bad at once. The Jana'ata crack down on the Runa village where the expedition has been staying, and Marc and Emilio become dependent upon the good will of Supaari. But Supaari has always wanted only one thing from these foreigners: the status necessary to earn breeding rights.

He uses Emilio as a bribe, and Emilio changes hands, becoming a sexual plaything and curiosity of the Jana'ata elite. And the question Emilio asks is the foundation of theodicy: why? Why has God forsaken him? The answer, if you can call it an answer, is the same as most theodicies—free will, etc. But The Sparrow is not a work of theodicy, at least not on a broad, philosophical level. It is instead one man's attempt at theodicy, but an emotional one grounded in his need to recover from a trauma I can't adequately imagine. Watching MDR break down Emilio is a harrowing, slightly pornographic experience.

Setting this tragedy against the backdrop of all the optimism and exuberance of first contact and exploration adds another perspective, transforming a single person's tragedy into a human tragedy on a grander scale. Although not emphasized much, it is clear that the actions of the first Rakhat expedition have upset the balance of power on Rakhat, with the Runa rising up against the Jana'ata.

Once again, a human civilization has touched another civilization and brought ruination. It sounds rather dark, doesn't it? Truthfully, The Sparrow is a dark tale. But in such tales, particularly set against the challenges and differences provided by science fiction, we often find the most human of stories. There is loss, chance for redemption, always the struggle to survive, to understand, and to grow.

The Sparrow is tragedy, is triumph, is many other things—but they do not start with "tr," so mentioning them would spoil the alliteration. I still maintain, however, that the atmosphere of The Sparrow is not pessimistic, just realistic. Mary Doria Russell sends Jesuits and scientists into space, fallible human beings without much experience in alien contact.

There are mistakes—terrible mistakes—but she never takes the easy way out by laying blame upon a single group. The Jesuits aren't evil missionaries; the scientists aren't calculating, inhuman explorers; the Jana'ata aren't heartless predators. With a complex plot and characters to match, The Sparrow reminds us that things will go wrong, and it isn't the mistakes you've made that matter but the ones you avoid by learning better. View all 5 comments. Nov 16, Phrynne rated it it was amazing Shelves: books. I love when I skim through pages of reviews of a book and they are nearly all either 5 stars or one star.

Only a really good book produces that range of opinion! This is a really good book. The Sparrow is science fiction with class. It is well written, there is a satisfying amount of science fiction and then there is a whole lot more besides. Russell's greatest talent is in characterisation.

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I enjoyed every single one of the characters in this book and when I had to put it down and do other thing I love when I skim through pages of reviews of a book and they are nearly all either 5 stars or one star. I enjoyed every single one of the characters in this book and when I had to put it down and do other things I missed them and could not to wait to pick the book up again. I loved the humour in the early days when Emilio and Anne and George first get together and I nearly cried in the later stages several times.

A lot of people comment on the fact that the book is about religion. I suppose it is but not in a way that any particular belief is pushed at the reader.

The Sparrow (novel) - Wikipedia

Others find some parts confronting. Again it is just part of the story and the author handles it with great skill. I see there is a sequel. I will be reading it very soon! View all 17 comments. May 31, Zach rated it did not like it Shelves: religion , science-fiction. Honestly, a more annoying set of self-satisfied "witty" bourgeois assholes you will not find. View all 6 comments. Jan 24, carol. It was well done, with beautiful prose. Interesting dual storyline style. I understand other reviewers' complaints about realism and incompatible biologies, microflora, etc.

There is sophisticated play with words throughout the book which adds to the depth of meaning. In one of the later hearings, she writes "Sometimes they were dealing with a Spaniard Or Mephistopheles Most often, it was Dr. Emilio Sandoz, linguist, scholar For me, the sour notes surround the pacing at the end of the book and the theme of rape.

The deaths of D. Their deaths should have echoed through the mission longer. I think the horror of their having been "poached" would have further set up the shock of the storyline, of discovering the Jana'ata are predators of the Runa population. The adventures of the first day in the city were similarly undigested; it would seem that Marc should have shared his vision of Runa being ceremonially slain and discussion would have started them wondering.

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Jun 19, Apatt rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. It does encapsulate the major theme of the novel quite well I think. So I have to capitulate or go mad and move it to the top of the pile. In a nutshell The Sparrow is about a mission organized by the Jesuit order to a planet called Rakhat where a satellite received transmission of alien music from the vicinity of Alpha Centauri. The novel has a dual timelines narrative structure.

He is in very poor shaped with grossly mutilated hands and he is on trial for a couple of heinous crimes he allegedly committed on the alien planet. This leads to the flashback timeline where the details and mysteries of the mission gradually unfold. As with most novels the shorter the synopsis the better I think plus I hate writing them. Mary Doria Russell certainly plays her cards close to her chest.

I was intrigued pretty much from beginning to end and while The Sparrow is not a fast paced novel it is something of a page turner. I had no idea the book has a dual timeline and initially I made the mistake of not paying any attention to the date indicated at beginning of the chapters and had to backtrack. So I would recommend paying close attention to begin with until you are hooked. If, however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.

Not in a proselytizing sense, Ms. Russell is not badgering the reader to accept God, she is writing about what can happen if you do, what can you reasonably expect to get for your faith. Without really spoiling the book I can tell you that some very awful things happen to very good people, including the pious ones. In spite of the religious theme the First Contact with aliens aspect of the book is not neglected.

The conditions of the planet Rakhat are clearly described and the alien native species is vividly imagined. They are very similar to humans in many ways but extremely alien in many others. The exposition of their biology, culture, cities etc is just the sort of thing most sci-fi readers would enjoy. The seriousness of the main themes is nicely balanced by the infusion of humour throughout the book. The author does have quite a flair for witty bantering dialogue and the prose style is nice and smooth. The characters are very well developed though I would caution you not to become too attached to any of them.

The Sparrow is definitely sci-fi, it even says so on the tin. Very good sci-fi it is too unless you dislike religious themes then this is not for you. View all 15 comments. Jul 04, Bradley rated it it was amazing Shelves: shelf , sci-fi , worldbuilding-sf. Let me be a bit real here. I was a bit anxious about reading this because it seemed to be yet another Jesuit first contact novel including aliens.

Now, let me be clear. I actually like religious ruminations when I'm in the right mood and when it's done well and when the context is backed up with solid world-building, whether local or extra-solar. Blish did it extremely well with his Jesuits and aliens. I was simply worried that this would be more of the same. Meaning of life and faith for the poo Let me be a bit real here. Meaning of life and faith for the poor unsaved brothers from other systems kind of thing.

But actually, what I received was a prototypical near-LitSF that was erudite, humorous, full of likable and complex characters, and a full-blown excellent novel in structure, prose, and thriller-type twists. And yes, there is also a lot about aliens, tragedy, loss of faith, and especially rape.

We know it's a tragedy before we even really begin. There are two timelines. And after. The nearly saintly linguist-priest Emilio is the sole survivor of an 8-person mission to Alpha Centauri after a musical message gets decoded, luckily, by peeps bankrolled by the Vatican. He comes back mutilated, completely out of faith, calling himself the Whore of God as in a reference to Beloved being the highest title in a harem , and who keeps everyone around him ignorant of the details.

We must learn about it the long way. But in the meantime, we're treated to present and past as others attempt to heal him and get him to talk and we're delighted by how fresh and funny and faithful he is early on. The science bits aren't bad and Russell does a lot to keep it real, glossing over a few little issues such as power sources and stuff, but this isn't nearly as bad as some more recent LitSF titles I've read. This is actual SF with a deep and complex storyline about faith and tragedy and a really nasty surprise about the aliens.

All three are intertwined. No spoilers, but my god the end is pretty horrible. We're given a lot of great characters and characterizations, so losing them this way, and then seeing what Emilio had to go through, was damn rough. A sparrow falling in the wood, but yet, the Father sees all, indeed. My initial reservations were unfounded. Both atheists and the faithful can find wonderful things in here.

Indeed, it's meant to be challenging as hell. And it is. As for being a new-modern-classic for SF, I can definitely see it. Most of these other LitSF titles are lightweights in comparison. Oct 29, Julie Christine rated it it was amazing Shelves: read , imagined-worlds , best-of I wonder how it feels to be one of the thirty-one agents who rejected The Sparrow? And four days to devour it.

The threaded narrative is split in two by time and space, but follows the story of one man: Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest from Puerto Rico I wonder how it feels to be one of the thirty-one agents who rejected The Sparrow? The threaded narrative is split in two by time and space, but follows the story of one man: Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest from Puerto Rico with preternatural linguistic abilities.

In , Emilio and seven other crew members board the Stella Maris to explore the recently-discovered planet Rakhat. In , Emilio returns from the mission alone, physically and psychologically broken. Although nearly forty years have passed on Earth since the doomed crew embarked on their voyage, Emilio—who travelled at light speed—is fresh from the horror. Not even three years have passed in his life since the Stella Maris's departure. The story of what happened to the crew had been relayed by another mission that followed a few years behind the Stella Maris.

It is horrific—or we suppose it must be— for Russell raises the tension ante by shifting back to the recent future, keeping her hand on the release valve of the truth as the storylines gradually merge. His hands have been mutilated, he suffers debilitating migraines, and he refuses to defend himself against terrible accusations. The Father General of the Society of Jesus, Vincenzo Guiliani, gives Emilio two months at a retreat outside Naples to heal, then the questioning will begin. Journey is a core theme of The Sparrow and the characters undertake many.

There are journeys of faith, love, marriage, and ageing; journeys that test physical limits and break the spirit. An eclectic mix, to be sure, but what they have in common is riveting story, characters who get under your skin, a scope awesome in size-either in research or world-building or both yet with deeply personal themes, and gorgeous but accessible prose. Each of these books changed me not just as a reader, but as a person. I add The Sparrow to this estimable collection.

Although I could have appreciated The Sparrow many years ago, I wonder if it would have touched me in the same way. The story caught me at a juncture of my own spiritual journey: the road that led me far from religion has crested a rise and I can see past the morass of dogma to the more orderly pursuit of theology. I am left with an inexplicable sense of beauty and hope and a renewed determination to continue my quest.

After forgoing The Sparrow for so long, why now? Just a sidebar about genre. Ditto The Sparrow —often categorized as science fiction. I resolve henceforth to ignore simplistic classifications and explore a book based on the quality of its storytelling and prose, rather than knee-jerk a rejection because a novel is set in Dodge City, KS or on Planet Rakhat. End of soapbox. Continuation of reading bliss. View all 16 comments. May 26, Julie rated it it was ok. Well, dang it. Dang it! I was NOT in the mood to give another scathing review of a book, especially not a book that has a near cultish fan following, as this one does.

This is a seriously beloved book with a 4. But, for the first time in my existence on this planet, I'm going to quote Whitesnake: Here I go again on my own Goin' down the only road I've ever known Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time. Yep, that's right. I jus Well, dang it. I just quoted an 80s band with bad hair, 'cause I'm in my 40s now, people, and "I ain't wasting no more time. Well, let me tell you, friends, if this had been MY lover. We wouldn't have made it past appetizers. It took ME, a wicked fast reader, almost 5 days to make it to page Then on that page, there's a brief moment of glory in the plot, and I thought to myself.

No it didn't. And, if this type of slow-moving plot and character development is Ms. Russell's version of literary foreplay, I say. It's obvious that no one's going to climax today. View all 26 comments. Aug 28, Stephen rated it it was amazing Shelves: award-nominee-british-sf , award-nominee-arthur-c-clarke , james-tiptree-award-winner , award-nominee-campbell , award-winner-arthur-c-clarke , multiple-award-winners , audiobook , james-tiptree-award-nominee , signed-first-or-limited-edition , award-winner-britsh-sf.

This book was beautifully written and the best way I can think to describe it is emotionally devastating but in a good way. Nominally, it is a book about "first contact" with an alien race but the heart of the story is the age old question, "How can someone believe in a just, loving God when such horrible things happen to good people? Highest Possible Recommendation!!!! Winner: Arthur C. Sep 29, Tom Mathews rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , science-fiction , favorite-authors , read-in , signed.

She described it as a story about a first contact space mission financed by Jesuits. Finally, eight years later, I picked up a copy and started reading it. Within a day I was thumping myself on the forehead asking how I could possibly have put off this excellent book for so long. Bottom line: Sparrow is the best book I have read in the last decade, if not longer. It has a wonderful cast of characters and deals with a wide variety of subjects with intelligence, grace and humor. Remember, I told you that it is difficult to describe this book and make it should appealing but everyone I know who has given it a try has been very impressed.

There is no book that I would recommend over this one. Read it. View all 10 comments. Apr 08, Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: those who enjoy thought provoking and character driven science fiction. Shelves: novel , goodreads-author , fiction , bookclub , zz-5star , groups-buddies , reviewed , 1-also-at-librarything , speculative-fiction , readbooks-female-author-or-illust. An online book club inspired me to actually choose it to read from my very long to-read shelf and I am so grateful to have read it.

This book is heartbreaking, devastating, horrifying, and emotionally difficult. This is my kind of science fiction: character driven and thought provoking. I felt attached to and cared about the fate of virtually all of the major characters and there are many. The story takes place from I thought it was brilliant the way the story is told, building up to what felt like a crescendo, and going back and forth in time and place, and pertinent that it was music that brought the earthlings to this foreign planet. Of interest from the author interview is that she grew up Catholic until age 15, then she became an atheist, and then when she became a mother she converted to Judaism.

One of my favorite characters is a Jewish woman and another is a somewhat agnostic woman the author says she most identified with. I guess the book is about faith and religious experience but I read it from my own point of view, as all readers do with all books, so those themes took somewhat of a back seat for me.

I look at life so differently from the central character Emilio Sandoz but he is a very compelling and understandable character. For me as a vegan, it made me further contemplate the commonalities among humans and other sentient beings, and about sentient beings who can speak and those who cannot. I found myself considering the ability to empathize vs. Dec 11, Dana Stabenow rated it did not like it. I really loathed this book, I think because it was such a lazy piece of work.

The characters had absolutely no clue, no situational awareness of what was going on around them. A real astronaut, hell, Captain Picard himself would never have made the bonehead moves these characters make in a first contact situation, and then--then! Any scientist, no, make that anyone who made it through freshman biology could have told I really loathed this book, I think because it was such a lazy piece of work.

Any scientist, no, make that anyone who made it through freshman biology could have told Russell that it is a mathematical impossibility that two species that evolved separately on planets lightyears apart would never be able to physically copulate, let alone rape for pleasure. This was sheer sensationalism, designed specifically to appeal to the voyeur in us all. I really loathed this book.

Having said that again she knows how to write, and perhaps will be able to construct a convincing narrative on another topic. But she should definitely stay away from sf. At least until she's seen a couple of episodes of "Star Trek. Sometimes we are surprised and taken aback by a novel. Even when we have been told to expect something marvelous, we cannot be prepared for the depths to which it will take us and return us again. Such a one is The Sparrow. Mary Doria Russell tackles the hard questions, the cosmic questions, the ones that have tortured man since his inception.

She never pretends to have all the answers and she paints characters who realize they do not have them either, but find them worth searching for. I have allowed this book to languish on my bookshelf for years because I am not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi. I had been told it was more than that, but I could never convince myself to put aside the prejudice and just begin the journey. My loss. Whatever you may think of these genres in general, believe me when I say this book transcends that narrow of a classification and opens up vistas as broad as the space in which these people travel.

This book about a trip into space is oddly not fantastic or unbelievable. And, this book about a Jesuit priest, and God himself, is oddly not religious. Or, only religious in the sense that it is about something larger than life, larger than our lives. Emilio Sandoz is a brilliant protagonist. He makes you smile, cry, praise and curse creation. You know there is sorrow ahead of you, because the opening chapters reveal enough to tell you that, but the why and how are so important, the characters so rich, that the sorrow still hits you like a sledge-hammer slammed into your chest.

Russell is a masterful storyteller and weaver of language. The questions she raises are not new to you, but within the context of her story you find that they are the most important questions you have ever encountered. For what can be more elemental than understanding God and man? If you can understand God, perhaps you could understand yourself, or vise versa. How many of us have witnessed, or even endured this: Edward Behr had seen this kind of thing before--the body punished for what the soul could not encompass.

Sometimes it was headache, as with Emilio. Sometimes excruciating back pain, or chronic stomach trouble. You saw it in alcoholics, often, drinking to dull the sensitivity, to mute the hurt. Even priests who, one would have thought, might have known better. Or this: She waited to see if he had more but when he fell silent, she decided to take a shot in the dark. No clothes, no weapons. Nowhere to hide. Completely vulnerable. The only thing that makes it tolerable is to believe the other person loves you back and that you can trust him not to hurt you.

She sees into the soul of each of us and digs up the pieces that we share in common, the ones we try to hide because we are afraid to show them. She takes what is so basically human and then she elevates it to another plane and makes it a greater love and a greater search We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best we can, but limited.

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Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable. Marc noted this and smiled, but continued. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps someday we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God. But, alas, this review is already too long and cumbersome. My advice, indeed my plea, is read this one for yourself. Russell is inviting you to form your own opinion. View all 23 comments. He was part of a Jesuit party set out for the New World, to Christianise the native population of what was then called Nouvelle-France a vast territory colonised by the Crown of France, that spanned from the Labrador and the Saint Lawrence River, to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi and Louisiana.

Father Jogues settled in Ontario with a group of Jesuit missionaries, among the Iroquois, the Huron and the Algonquin. The situation between the natives and the French settlers was tense indeed and, at some point during his mission, Isaac Jogues was captured by a war party of Mohawks. During his captivity, the priest was beaten, hung, mocked, flogged, horribly tortured and had the ends of his fingers cut off.

Isaac Jogues managed to escape his torturers and get back to France. He was canonised in The Sparrow is a science fiction novel, but it is secretly inspired by the life of Isaac Jogues. A group of scientists, among them several Jesuit priests, decide to set out for that distant planet, in a secret mission sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.

Several years later, only one survivor, Father Emilio Sandoz, a linguist from Puerto Rico, returns from the mission to Earth, his hands atrociously mutilated. He is questioned by the Father Superior, and the whole point of the novel is to discover, through a series of flashbacks, how he got these stigmas. Father Sandoz, as well as most of the characters involved in the interplanetary mission, stand out well, each with their background, with their issues, with their language and outlook on the world.

And Russell has the rare merit of presenting the priests as multidimensional and endearing characters. She also has a remarkably deft pen, devoid of affectation, which makes her prose very pleasant to read. For one, the plot drags on from one piece of conversation to the next, most of which are not devoid of funny repartee and cloister jokes, but add very little to the story, tend to water down the stakes and get a bit irritating in the end —especially the slightly gooey Anne character and the constant sprinkling of foreign idiomatic expressions.

Secondly, some plot points are a bit far-fetched, for instance the decision, taken practically on the back of an envelope, between a few friends who coincidentally happen to be around, to set up a mission to the alien world on an asteroid travelling at close to the speed of light, and all secretly funded by the Church! Too, considering this is a book about a bunch of ecclesiastics, many considerations are geared toward priesthood, the vow of celibacy and some vague theological thoughts, but it seems to me Russell is just scratching the surface on these topics to give her novel some philosophical gloss.

I was also disappointed by the way Russell lacked a sense of awe when imagining what an alien planet and civilisation would be like is this attributable to the fact that the author is an anthropologist? And finally, the last fifty pages, which unveil the mystery of the maimed priest, take a sharp turn towards a gruesome, even tearful, ending, that I found somewhat surprising, disturbing, clumsy even —when considering the benign, casual tone of the rest of the novel— and, all in all, almost unnecessary. This is a very hard review for me to write. My mind is still reeling from the impact that this book had on me.

The Sparrow is one of those books that I sit and wonder how on earth did the author conceive of the idea of the substance enclosed in these pages. Emilio Sandoz is a Jesuit priest but he is so much more. When extraterrestrial intelligence is confirmed and the Jesuits decide to go find the source of the "singing", this is s This is a very hard review for me to write. When extraterrestrial intelligence is confirmed and the Jesuits decide to go find the source of the "singing", this is something that the Jesuits have been preparing Emilio for his whole life. He has been assigned to every possible earth climate from Antarctica to the Sudan.

He has linguistic abilities that have prepared him to learn alien languages. He also believes in doing all for the glory of God. Yet he is a fun person to be around, especially among his closest friends. This planned space mission is not through any government agency so picking the crew has different criteria. Most of the crew is made up of friends that Emilio has known for a long time. These are very intelligent, capable people, almost as if God had this planned.

Thoughts on THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell

But don't be concerned that you are going to get hit over the head with religion in this book. God and religion are two different things. It is about Life and Friendship and Possibilities. The ending of The Sparrow makes me very grateful that there is a second book to read, Children of God. The Sparrow is so unique and well written that I definitely want more.

There are things that happen in this book that I would normally want to avoid but they are not pervasive. It gets better with every re-read. Jan 12, Richard Derus rated it really liked it. I was riveted from first to last, and completely bought into the premise: A privately financed interstellar journey never seemed nore likely than in the world Russell posits is coming from our own era.

Beautiful, beautiful writing! The descriptions of Rukhat are spare and evoked so much for me. The descriptions of Earth's near-enough future were pitch-perfect to my ears as well, though a lot less beautiful in the images they left behind. The disquieting images of the near future, and the horrible fate of Emilio the main character , are inextricably linked in my mind with Russell's richly drawn alien culture and its customs. I was frustrated by the subordinate characters' incompleteness, and then the aliens' glancing treatment; but that really points up the good quality of the writing!

I wanted more than Russell gave me, of everything she gave me, and it's not very often one gets to say that about a first novel. Apr 02, Simon Fay rated it it was ok Shelves: science-fiction-and-fantasy. In science fiction, space exploration is usually spearheaded by intellectuals, the military, mega-corporations, and even the average joes of our near future.

The early parts of the book lean heavily on it to create a sense of wonder and dread. As a wannabe history buff, I was titillated by the idea of taking a religious orga In science fiction, space exploration is usually spearheaded by intellectuals, the military, mega-corporations, and even the average joes of our near future.

As a wannabe history buff, I was titillated by the idea of taking a religious organisation as anachronistic as the Catholic Church and launching them to an alien planet on a mission to spread the word of God. Sadly, I was disappointed to find that the potential was squandered. Many pages are dedicated to the relationship between spiritualism and celibacy. A little bit of time is spent mulling over the credentials of what makes a saint.

There are also some enjoyable sections that draw back the curtain on the inner workings of Church bureaucracy. A great amount of the story is spent establishing the landscape of their intimacies and personal history, so I found myself wanting to speed through it just so that I could get to the meat of the piece — That moment, I was sure, when the existential certainty of the Catholics would be warped by the completely alien outlook of another intelligent species. The book almost tackled the prospect. The alien language that our protagonists learn utilises nouns that define objects as either present or abstract.

It seemed to me that there was an entire novel of possibilities in the idea of a Catholic missionary introducing the concept of the Holy Trinity to a species who view the universe in such a way, but the moment was quickly brushed aside and forgotten in favour of describing the inner struggle of man who is close to sainthood.

All told, there are deaths, a genocide and a series of tragic misunderstandings. The terrible events challenge the priests, and the reader, to see through it all and find the love of God. View 1 comment. Feb 22, Olive abookolive rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , own , favorites-all-time. Can't put any thoughts here yet since husband hasn't finished reading but Readers also enjoyed.

Science Fiction. About Mary Doria Russell. Mary Doria Russell. Mary Doria Russell is an American author. She was born in in the suburbs of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military; her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant, and her mother was a Navy nurse. She holds a Ph. Russell lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband Don and their two dogs.

Mary is shy about online stuff like Goodreads, but she responds to all email, and would prefer to do that through her website. Photo by Jeff Rooks Other books in the series.

The Sparrow The Sparrow
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The Sparrow The Sparrow
The Sparrow The Sparrow
The Sparrow The Sparrow
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