The Sparrow

Thoughts tsbymdr The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell, Brilliance Audio 1996, 15 hrs 24 min

Narrated by David Colacci.

There are books that get recommended to you that you squint funny at the person and say,

“Really? You really think this sounds like a book I would like?”

So, you write it in down on a scrap of paper, or add to your tbr in goodreads, or just file it away mentally til that day it somehow finds its way into your hands, on your Kindle, or due to be picked up from the Library On-Hold shelf.

I am pretty sure that it was Jimmi who told me about this book. She seemed surprised I hadn’t heard of it. (Heck, I’m usually mildly surprised that I have never heard of a book when someone recommends such to me.)

It’s about a Jesuit — read “Catholic”, if you’re not Catholic. It’s probably more than that but hey, I’m not Catholic — mission to outerspace. Outer Space?

OK. Still with me?

I actually like science fiction books but I am not drawn to the genre. I might be if it is funny or hailed as super dooper classic that goes beyond genre. Or? I’m not sure. I mean, I haven’t even been able to read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet which means I can’t yet be considered a SciFi fan even if I can claim to have read Neuromancer and Snow Crash. (I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time and Ready Player One, too. Woo hoo!)

So this very interesting amazing group of people somehow get to meet and become friends and then be in the RIGHT PLACE at the RIGHT TIME and things fall right in line for them all to take a 17 year (earth years) trip to a planet that has been found to have SINGING. (see: “intelligent life”)

The coincidences cannot be just coincidences; they must have been arranged by God.

What makes this book so excellent and compelling is that you read that above paragraphs and  IT. WORKS.  Sure, coincidence or God. WHO CARES?! The story, people! It’s the story telling and the character building and the WOW!!  You just have to keep reading. Or listening, in my case. The narration is excellent. My only complaint on that is I usually listen at 1.25x speed and this sounded awful when read faster than ‘normal’ and so I had to listen just like it was read. Silly, minor, extremely minor complaint.

I am now recommending this book to many people. Maybe not to Rhonda but I am recommending to Marsha. Pretty sure that Holly would love it, and probably Gail, too. MBR said she loved it. AB wouldn’t go for it but she reads a particularly spicy genre.

This book was just so GOOD. It’s about faith. Faith in yourself, love, reality, purpose, whatever. Faith.

I am giving it 4.5 slices of pie. It might show 5 stars in goodreads, I can’t decide. Most of my goodreads friends gave it 5 stars – that in itself is amazing.

You want me to tell you more? So this Jesuit mission happens to take off for a visit to the planet that has singing. The members of the mission meet a primitive culture and settle in and learn and seem to really be making progress but of course, there must be more advanced cultures otherwise, how could the singing have been broadcast so that Earth could intercept the signals?  Well, if I told you that, I would have to give the spoiler symbol.

One member of the mission party makes it back to Earth. He is given time to heal from this ordeal but eventually there must be a reckoning. He must TELL WHAT HAPPENED.

The story begins with him and then goes back and forth between how everyone meets and the trip gets approved and arranged and unfolds. The heartbreaking conclusion is the final pieces of how the mission failed.

OH!  I think it will stay with me a long time. I do love when a story is suggested, and when I’m not quite sold, but I go with it anyway and then I get swept away.

Take the risk and experience The Sparrow.  sparrow2

PS. This happens to be the first in a duo, I think. Not a trilogy, am I right? The Sparrow is quite capable of being considered a stand-alone book and not one that requires anything more. (not like The Knife of Never Letting Go. UGH.) SO then for all of you who have read the second book that MDR wrote (Children of God)… should I?

The Goodreads description of the sequel says this, “… in Children of God, Russell further establishes herself as one of the most innovative, entertaining and philosophically provocative novelists writing today.

I’m more inclinded to read Doc, actually. I do hope I have found another favorite author to explore.




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33 thoughts on “The Sparrow

  1. Like half the world, I loved The Sparrow. Children of God couldn’t possibly hope to measure up, and it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading– just don’t expect too much because the first one is so good.

  2. OMG! I actually thought of you as my audience when I wrote this. Which also made me go back and attempt an edit for tense which I probably failed at. ;P

  3. trish422

    As a SciFi/Fantasy geek, I am giving you permission to call yourself one as well. Anyone who’s read Stephenson is totally allowed. 🙂

    1. Isn’t that always the case? So many books i want to read NOW. But I’m a single-threader (most of the time) – I actually had 3 books working earlier this week and now only 2. No, still 3. About to add another audio to make 4. Sigh

  4. Someone in my book club read this over ten years ago and I remember her sitting there, telling me to read it but the title didn’t appeal to me and she NEVER mentioned a singing planet. I think that would have caught my attention. I do love Sci-fi. Maybe I should read this. I am trying to get The Giver read before the movie comes out. Also a book that the very same lady recommended to me ages ago.

    1. See? You are making my point! I do DO DO hope you read this because you and I always have such fun things to discuss.
      I read The Giver a few years ago – it felt like an ‘old’ YA story, in a way. Maybe younger than YA. OK, does that make any sense??? Old as in written many years before dystopia YA was a craze.

    1. I bet what you and Aarti say is true – people hate to ruin a love for a first book by a weak second. I might read it anyway but I expect it will be many years from now (based on my track record of saying I really want to read something and my actually getting to it years later.)

      I have a friend who has a son who went to a Jesuit college in KCMO. He is VERY smart, so this equation proves true. 🙂

  5. I loved this book so much! So much in it. I agree with Jeanne that Children of God didn’t measure up and didn’t really stand a chance. But The Sparrow! I love how it started with “They meant no harm.” So true of so many people, and yet so ominous…

  6. Ruthiella

    Just thinking about The Sparrow makes me all goosepimply. It was very good (five stars) but so sad. I can’t even contemplate reading it again or continuing with The Children of God.

    BTW I am reading Doc right now and the quote “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes up in that book too.

  7. Yay! I’m so excited every time someone reads and loves this book. I thought it sounded ridiculous, then I read it and just fell in love. So that was 3 years ago and I just finished reading Doc yesterday (review up soon). You must read it! Such different subject matter, but it’s that gorgeous writing that just makes you feel like she’s talking about your friends.

  8. I want to reread this one, but the ending completely destroyed me. I knew it was going to end badly, the narrative doesn’t hide that, but when it finally happened I was a complete wreck. I don’t know if I could put myself through that again. But I want to?

    1. GOOD! I think I will try Doc next and then eventually get to CoG. As I say about every book on the tbr… (I am still in shock and awe that you love that Years of Solitude book!)

  9. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve been hearing bunches about this book. I think Andi is the one who was talking about it first? YOU have me very intrigued, though! Very very intrigued.

  10. I read this with my DC book club way back in 1999 and fell in love! I even made Jason read it and he liked it too.
    Eventually we ended up here in Cleveland, where Russell lives, so I’ve been to a few signings of hers. I remember at one she said this was her favorite book, but the sequel, Children of God, is her husband’s favorite. I liked Children of God, but it does change the story of The Sparrow, so read with caution. 🙂

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