The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Mike’s review

Jesuits are such a well-adjusted branch of Catholicism. Healthy questioning of the way things are/could be. Inquisitiveness, not Inquisition. Even their self-doubt is plain and matter of fact. They’re so practical. So the search for self I was hoping for here probably won’t manifest.


I get the point of the future/now sections, but they’re such a slog. I think there’d be just as much suspense, more even, if I didn’t know everyone dies and Emilio’s a prostitute and murderer (boy does this even end up to be a letdown). Also, not a spoiler because it’s revealed pretty early in the book.


Plot is pretty simple. Jesuits discover a planet with life. They fund a private voyage to the planet. Only one priest makes it back alive. The story is told with alternating chapters set in the past and the now, during something like Emilio’s (the living priest) trial amongst his Jesuit peers.


“From a culture gone mad with documentation, publicity, broadcast, narrowcast and pointcast, where every act of public and private life seemed to be done for an audience […]” This was written in 1996! I don’t remember that being a concern then. Wasn’t that about O.J. time though, which was arguably the start of that culture. But were people aware of it yet?


“‘What is a whore but someone whose body is ruined for the pleasure of others? I am God’s whore, and ruined.'”


I feel a genuine sense of wonder at first contact.


“‘on the fate of Cleveland in the World Series of 2018′” so close. And may still come true!

“‘Anybody can have a couple of lousy centuries.” re: being a Cubs fan. The Cubs continuing to lose is a small recurring joke through the book that would have been real funny had I read it 2 months earlier than I did. As it was, it was still a little amusing to think about.



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