Friday Favorites: The Sparrow

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Sparrow
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.


Cori said...

I want to tell the world to read this...but every time I say space-traveling priests, eyes glaze over. Seriously -- people need to read this book! (thanks for the link :)

Trisha said...

Like you, I am turned off by the cover and the summary, but your review has me adding it to the wish list!

BookQuoter said...

Oh, I am so glad you liked this book!! THis was one booked that startled me!! The question on my mind for days: Is that what that was??

She said...

YES. I loved this one, too. I was so surprised to find it laugh out loud funny while still keeping that serious, cry worthy veneer.

Susan E. Harris-Gamard said...

Your review sounds so compelling. I'll admit I would never consider reading something like this from the description, but now you have me interested.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I hate that I probably never would have read this if other bloggers hadn't recommended it. We're not suppose to judge books by their covers, but I'm guilty of that sometimes.

She - The balance between humor and loss was so wonderful. It was truly funny, while at the same time breaking your heart.

Jeanne said...

I honestly don't know anyone who has read this and hasn't loved it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so, so happy that you read and loved this book. The Sparrow is my all-time favorite book and I am such an evangelist for it, LOL. Are you going to read the sequel, Children of God? I liked that one but not nearly as much as The Sparrow... if you read it, I'll be anxious to find out what you think!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Heather - I am going to read the sequel. I just got it the other day and I'm looking forward to it. I'm nervous that my expectations are too high, but I know it's probably not going to be quite as good.