THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell: A Review

I thought it was about time to get back to reading some sci-fi, and I chose a “classic” published in 1996. I decided on this one because the information I had about it had a definite philosophical “edge” to it. This information described the novel as “Jesuits in space.” It is set in 2016-2060.

Emilio Sandoz, the main character is as complex and strange a character as I have ever encountered before. He is a priest who “lost his friends and his faith” while on his journey to and arrival on Mars. The secondary characters are admirably drawn, characters you come to “know” and care about. George and Ann, the married couple were my favorites. The aliens are interesting and creatively described and presented as well.

Russell is known for her “meticulous research, fine prose, and the compelling narrative drive of her stories,” and this one did not tarnish her reputation. The title comes from a gathering/inquisition of priests into Emiliano and the mission when one of them says in answer to one priest’s question, “…So God just leaves”?

“No, He watches. He rejoices. He weeps. He observes the moral dynamics of human life and gives meaning to it by caring about us, and remembering.” ┬áThe head investigator then quotes Matthew 10:29, “Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father acknowledging it.”

A younger priest, Felipe, who has seen Emilio Sandoz’s suffering, adds, “But the sparrow still falls.”

I guarantee this is a book you won’t forget.