Review: The Sparrow


  • Author: Mary Doria Russell
  • ISBN: 9780449912553
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction

I purchased this book.

I’ve managed to pull myself out of the emotional wreckage this book caused in order to write this review.  I considered not writing one, but this book is truly great.  I don’t know if it will continue to stand the test of time, but even with a small part of the story occurring in 2015, the technology still seems marginally possible.  This is a work of Science Fiction, though, so I had to be forgiving of the “science”.

Putting the science and technology aside (which is easy to do since the story is about the characters and their experiences interacting with the aliens they come in contact with), this book is difficult.  It took me several months to finish, and not just because I was reading five other books at the time.  It ran me through a wringer emotionally, so I had to repeatedly put the book down for a bit so I could process what I was feeling and thinking.  You quickly discover that Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest, is the only survivor of the mission to make contact with an alien species, and something horrible was done to him, but you don’t really know what.  Clearly, he’s suffering from PTSD, survival guilt, and a whole laundry list of physical health issues, but it’s through the back and forth between the present and the past that you very slowly find out exactly what happened and why.  You don’t know the full extent of the horrors until near the end.  Much of Emilio’s thoughts and emotions hit far too close to home, and I bookmarked several passages so that I could go back later to re-read them.  In a way, his story was therapeutic, but as anyone who’s ever been through any mental or physical therapy knows, it’s rough going.  It’s never easy, and many of the characters who are trying to help Emilio recover from his experiences don’t seem to understand that, in much the same way as most people don’t understand just how difficult it is to deal with mental health issues.

I highly recommend The Sparrow, but not necessarily to just those who enjoy Science Fiction.  Rather, this book is more for anyone who loves Speculative Fiction or Literary Fiction.  Please understand that the story may take a long time to get through, though, and I recommend having something light and easy to read for when you need a break, or for when you’ve finished this book, in order to balance things back out.  I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which did the trick and kept me from getting deeply depressed.

Monday’s Minutes #5

Currently Reading: The Very Best of Kate Elliott, a review book, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott for The Classics Club, 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb, for one of my college classes, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, because I’m insane.  Also, there’s a read-along for it.

 Kate Elliott Sparrow Little Women 1536 War and Peace

Winter 2014-2015 COYER Progress:  I’ve read 7 books towards my goal of 10, and participated in 2 read-a-thons towards my goal of 3.  I’ve been keeping up with the Facebook group, but I still need to do a mini-challenge.

Show Your Shelves Some Love, and Outdo Yourself Progress: 5

Netgalley/Edelweiss Progress: 4

SF/F Bingo: I may end up moving these around a bit, but so far I only need to read a book published this year.  The Very Best of Kate Elliott will qualify for that. I’ve read a book containing dragons (The Sunken by S.C. Green), a book by a female author (The Eterna Files), a book published prior to 2000 (Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein) and an Urban Fantasy (The Kingdom Lights by Steven V.S.).  My “Free” book is Tommy Black and the Staff of Light by Jake Kerr).

S&S BingoUpdate3

Total pages read for the week: 151

Total number of books for the year: 7.  I’m still technically ahead of schedule, but unless I finish The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Friday, I’ll be behind by the end of the week.  I decided to cut Friday’s Fairy Tales down, again, to monthly, which is why there wasn’t a post on Friday, and I’m probably going to cut back Wednesday’s Words to every other week.  I’m already seeing a slight reduction in traffic, but earning my degree has to come first.  At this rate, I don’t think I’m going to complete most of the challenges I’m participating in, but we’ll see.  It’s only the 2nd month of the year, and last year started strong and then slowed around the same time.

Top Commenters: This week, my Top Commenter was Shaina from Shaina Reads.

What are you reading this week?