Ok, I know that this post is going to be “too long; didn’t read” so the bottom line is READ IT. Alright, carry on…
In Short: Life on another planet is discovered and a small research team, headed by Jesuits, travels to Rakhat to make contact.
Why I Read It: Because of all of the recent ravings. Strangely I had never heard of The Sparrow until a few months ago. I went the readalong route for a bit of hold handing because I was intimidated by “science-fiction” and “religion.” I needn’t be intimidated by either, though.
Thoughts in General: At first I was turned off by this book because of the whole religion angle. It wasn’t until Jill assured me that you can be unreligious and still appreciate this book that I decided, FINE I’LL READ IT. And I’m so glad that I did. I don’t think that The Sparrow hit me as hard as other readers–there was so much build-up to the ending that I felt gently let-down slightly before the final pages–but the journey along the way was an emotional and intellectual…and yes spiritual…ride.
That stupid blinking cursor. Taunting me for having ALL of the things to say but not really knowing how to say any of them.
The characters. Emilio–the priest who has never spoken to or felt God, the priest who initiated the journey to Rakhat. The priest who bears all of the burden and the blame for things he isn’t guilty of. Anne–the matron and backbone of the crew. Oh I love Anne–maybe more than I’ve loved any other character in print. She’s smart and sassy and brilliant and loving. A skeptic who still has the faith to be supportive. Sofia–a bit of an enigma. A character who is tough to connect with but still somehow sneaks into your heart. It’s a small cast of characters (no I didn’t name them all), but Russell does such a wonderful job of sketching such human characters. I know it’s become rote to mention flawed or human characters, but truly. I will offer a small complaint about the “present day” priests all running together in my head. I’m still not quite clear on the differences in some of those guys.
The way that the plot unfolds. Told in alternating chapters of present time (actually year 2060) after the mission to Rakhat is over and Emilio has returned home and flashbacks to the time before the mission and during the mission. There is a delicious and taunting pull that these alternating chapters create. I largely felt disconnected during the present time, though, always impatient to get back to the mission knowing that it was going to culminate in disaster but not quite knowing how. At times the book is overly technical but the construction of the book as a whole was so impressive to me. I can see why people read this book multiple times.
The writing. The nuggets of truth and discovery. The fact that even the priests are at times faithless or unsure. The faith alone–to put your life in God’s hands and to then patiently wait to see where it will lead. It’s something that I’ve never personally understood but it was fascinating and a bit heartbreaking to watch. Yes it is a heavy book with really heavy themes, but there were enough moments of tenderness and lightheartedness throughout the novel to allow for much needed breathing room.
Bottom Line: The Sparrow is so beautifully written. As in the most gorgeous book that I’ve read in a long long time. I dogearred many many passages and after finishing I went back and reveled in the writing and in the brilliance of the puzzle pieces fitting together. Will this be my favorite book ever? No. Will it stay with me for a long time? Yes. Could I see myself reading it again? Yes. Do I want to read the sequel? Meh. Do I recommend it? Absolutely, but prepare yourself for a heavier read that will squeeze everything out of you. When I finished The Sparrow, I felt everything and nothing at all.
The Sparrow Readalong: Avert your eyes if you are avoiding spoilers! MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!! And please mark spoilery comments as much below.
Ok, the ending. Is it hopeful or not? Does the power of confession free Emilio at the end? Though this idea of confession bothers me because I feel like he is unfairly judged by the Jesuits upon his return. For this alone I would love to re-read the book knowing what comes at the end and seeing Emilio’s return from Rakhat through the priests’ eyes. Why do they assume prostitution rather than captivity? Oh but Askama. Talk about ripping your heart out and stomping on it.
What is your take on Supaari? I felt so betrayed by Supaari. I had to go back and re-read some parts from when Supaari is first introduced. The whole third-born, not able to have children, aspect really stuck with me and when the ending came to be I just felt struck down. Had he always meant to sell out the humans? On the one hand I wanted to appreciate the relationship that he shared with the others, particularly Anne, but on some level it was like he always knew the price he would receive.
What else do you want to discuss? I would love to have a twitter chat (we did have a few brief back and forths already), but man–trying to schedule everyone together is tough!
If you participated in The Sparrow RAL and have a final post, please link it up below:
Have you read The Sparrow? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book…or alternatively why you may not think this book is for you.