by Mary Doria Russell
I resisted this book for a long, long time. I actually checked it out of the library more than once and returned it unread, which rarely happens. The cover looked boring and the summary sounded too preachy. A Jesuit priest travels into space, blah, blah, blah. Man was I wrong.
The premise actually sounds more complicated than it is. There's a group of friends on earth. One of them discovers that there is life out in the universe and they end up travelling to that planet, Rakhat, to find it. We know all of this from the beginning because the story is told using two timelines. The first is in the future when the Jesuit priest, Emilio Sandoz, returns to earth physically and mentally destroyed. He is the only member of the original crew to return. The second timeline explains everything that happened to lead up to that point.
Now strip all of that away and get rid of any preconceived notions. This is a story of loss, friendship, love, heartbreak and everything else that’s intrinsically human. It’s devastatingly beautiful, but it’s also funny and sweet. It captures the pain and loveliness of humanity in an incredible way. The characters are flawed, but loveable. You feel so close to them as the story progresses, which is crucial for its success.
The book is plotted perfectly in my opinion. There’s a large chunk explained at the beginning which leaves you anticipating the explanation throughout the book. After that things are slowly revealed, but you’re left with some questions right up until the end.
Please don’t let the silly title, cover and publisher summary keep you from this book. I let them deter me for far too long and they are in no way a representation of the real story held within the binding.
“You know what’s the most terrifying thing about admitting you’re in love? You’re just naked. You’ve put yourself in harm’s way and you’ve just laid down all your defenses; no clothes, no weapons, no where 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.”
A few other great reviews... books i done read, let's eat grandpa, My Friend Amy.