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The Sparrow ()

Vintage Books List of the Best Reading Group Books (50)

In this excellent science fiction novel by first time author Mary Doria Russell, it's the year 2060 and Father Emilio Sandoz is the sole survivor of a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat.  He has returned to Earth broken in body & spirit.  Russell has said that he she had two motives in writing this book.  The first was, in the face of the multiculturalist attack on Columbus in 1992, to reclaim some sense of the courage, missionary zeal and spirit of exploration that actually drove the explorers.  Second, as a recent convert to Judaism, she wanted to write about how religion can be so central to a person's existence that they will risk their life for it.  She says that: "When you convert to Judaism in a post-Holocaust world, you know two things for sure: one is that being Jewish can get you killed; the other is that God won't rescue you."  This novel brilliantly captures both the exploring spirit and the consolations and frustrations of religious belief.  The themes are nicely presented in this passage::

    "It is the human condition to ask questions like Anne's last night, and to receive no clear answer.
    Perhaps this is because we can't understand the answers, because we are incapable of knowing
    God's ways and God's thoughts. We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best
    we can, but limited. Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the

    Emilio's head came up and he looked at Marc, his face very still. Marc noted this, and smiled, but
    continued. 'The Jewish sages tell us that God dances when his children defeat Him in argument,
    when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions like Anne's are worth asking. 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.


Grade: (B+)


Mary Russell Links:
-REVIEW: of The Passion (Mary Doria Russell, Religion & Ethics)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Home page of Mary Doria Russell
    -Reader's Guide: THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell (Random House)
    -INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Mary Doria Russell
    -INTERVIEW: Of Prayers and Predators: an interview with Mary Doria Russell (Nick Gevers)
    -REVIEW: The Sparrow (Jim Mann, NESFA: The New England Science Fiction Association, Inc.)
    -REVIEW: Steven Silver
    -ARTICLE: This year, an award is made for absence of sex (Elisabeth Sherwin)
    -REVIEW: Mary Doria Russell's Children of God  (L.Timmel Duchamp)
    -REVIEW: The Sparrow & Children of God  Mary Doria Russell  (SF Site Featured Review)
    -REVIEW: ( Jon Courtenay Grimwood, infinity plus)

If you liked The Sparrow, try:

Douglass, Lloyd
    -The Robe

Moore, Brian
    -Black Robe
    -Cold Heaven

Sienkiewicz, Henryk
    -Quo Vadis?

Wallace, Lew