Brooke's Reviews > The Sparrow

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
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's review
Jan 25, 09

bookshelves: 2009, science-fiction
Read in January, 2009

In a word - excellent. The Sparrow is a "first contact" science fiction novel, but it's also an example of the genre that's great for non-SF fans. Although it's a story about a Jesuit mission to an alien planet, the focus is more on the question of faith.

The novel uses a non-linear storytelling device, so in the first few pages you know the outcome - Emilio Sandoz has returned to earth alone and broken, and scandalous stories about a dead child and a brothel have preceded him. His superiors attempt to extract the full story from him - there are hints that the scandals have had a disastrous effect on the Church.

Despite knowing the end result, I found the slow reveal of the "how" and "why" totally fascinating. I've seen some complaints that Emilio's final confession wasn't as shocking as they expected, and I'm puzzled by that one - I thought it was pretty implicit from the beginning what had happened to him, and that the story was not so much what did happen, but the progress Emilio made towards healing and coming to terms with it.

My only complaint is that there are two characters on the expedition who don't get much in terms of being fleshed out - Alan Pace and Marc Robichaux are so colorless and neglected compared to the others. The others - Anne, George, Sofia, D.W., and Jimmy - are so vibrant and their relationships are so endearing that just knowing they don't make it back to Earth is enough of a heartbreak.
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Reading Progress

01/24/2009 page 180
44.12%

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Brad I completely agree with your statement that "I thought it was pretty implicit from the beginning what had happened to him, and that the story was not so much what did happen, but the progress Emilio made towards healing and coming to terms with it." I was always clear on what happened, my guess was pretty close to the mark, and for me it was all about how Emilio dealt with things, which was the truly heartbreaking and life affirming part of the story.


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