Book: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
For: blogger read along
From: Paperback Swap
I first heard about this book probably a year ago when Michael and Ann were discussing science fiction on their podcast, Books on the Nightstand. Whatever they said, it was enough for me to instantly request it from Paperback Swap. When I got it, it promptly sat on the shelf until this past month when this read along was proposed and I joined up.
I read it quickly at the beginning of the month, and now finally it's time for all the read along participants to share their reviews. So hopefully I can remember what I wanted to say!
First a bit of a summary. This book takes place in two different time settings. One just a few years from now, around 2019, when a radio transmission is discovered being broadcast in the vicinity of Alpha Centuri. The music is beautiful and scientists are drawn to the possibility of making contact. The Jesuits are leading the push for exploration, and they put together a group of people to head out on this mission.
Jump ahead many years to about 2060 or so when the only surviving member of that mission has returned, in awful physical and emotional condition, only to face an interrogation by his peers and community and the world at large.
The book continues to jump back and forth between Emilio Sandoz, who is slowly recovering and trying to avoid his questioners yet finally giving up and telling his story... to the story itself as we learn about all the members of the group, fall in love with everyone of them and head off with them on their voyage through space. We participate with them as they discover this new world.... and ultimately learn how they come to their tragic end.
And saying that is not a spoiler because we know from the very first page that Emilio is the only surviving member, and that something terrible and tragic happens. It's hinted at throughout, and some stuff is out and out revealed to us. Yet, I knew the whole time there would be more, and that the hints we were getting only scratched the surface of what was to come.
Therefore, though I was entranced by this whole story, I was scared to death too. At some point, I decided it was NOT a book to be read right before bed, as I know I have a tendency to think and ponder whatever I've read way too much as I'm falling asleep and I had a distinct feeling this book would not be good for this sort of thing!
I was so scared to get to the end!
But get to the end I did, and I survived. Even though that end was hard to read, and heart breaking indeed, the book itself was about so much more than this tragic space mission. The characters were wonderful, different and vibrant. It's about their connection and bond. It's about their belief (or not) in a higher power and if that power is truly involved in our lives and aware of what is going on....or not. It's a much more religious book than I would have ever imagined. There's some very powerful and frankly disturbing questions raised about what it means to be human and the meaning of life in general.
Ah, it's too hard to explain! You'll just have to go read it for yourselves!
Bottom line: I loved it.
For more about author Mary Doria Russell, visit her official site here.
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