The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: Emilio Sandoz, Jesuit priest and only survivor of the first expedition to an inhabited alien planet, is returned to Earth and immediately removed from the public eye while he recovers from grave injuries. His fellow priests desperately want to know what happened on the planet, but he is unwilling to talk, clearly traumatized in ways they don’t understand. The story of the expedition is told in flashbacks, from how the characters first met through the discovery of the alien radio signal to their adventures on the planet Rakhat. Since you know from the start that every other member of the crew eventually dies, much of the book is read with a sense of deep foreboding that only worsens the better you get to know and like them, and the longer they spend on Rakhat.

This book is amazing. It’s about aliens, sure, but it’s also about love and grief and faith and friendship and sex and language. I loved the characters and their relationships with each other, especially Anne as the sort-of matriarch. The alien culture is fascinating and quite new to me, and Emilio’s experiences are often harrowingly real. Like any good drama, it’s sometimes hard to take, and sometimes quite funny, but always engrossing. I needed to know how it all turned out, even though I knew from the beginning that it would be tragic. But it’s also uplifting in some ways, almost cathartic. Either way, I highly recommend this book. I think I may need to seek out the sequel.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    I love first contact stories. Will definitely put this on the list.

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