Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow

How does one write a review of this book? Visualize a group of people, led by Jesuits, who feel they are following God's directions and those directions include travel to a distant planet. If that was the totality of the story it would simply be a science fiction story complete with odd looking aliens. 

This story is so much more. Mary Russell sets the story up in a completely believable manner so that it is not difficult to suspend disbelief. Jimmy Quinn, an astronomer, makes the initial discovery. He picks up a transmisson which appears to be music and doesn't come from any earthly place. This sets up the ensuing story.

Russell weaves two narratives together in order to tell the story. The story takes place in 2019 and 2060. 

Initially eight people set out to discover what they could about the planet Rakhat .

In 2060 there is an interrogation of the sole remaining survivor of the journey ,Emilo Sandoz. He returns to earth maimed, depressed and sick and is subject to intense questioning by his Jesuit superiors.

The story of the  relatonships formed by the eight members of the team are both a study of how families operate and the complexities of relationships. 

The crew:Besides Jimmy Quinn and Emilo Sandoz,— Anne and George, a long time married couple, Anne is physician and George is a retired engineer and Sophia Mendes the creator of Artificial Intelligence Programs. Three more Jesuits: D.W. Yarbrough, Marc Robichaux, a naturalist and Alan Pace ,a musicologist, round out the team.

Each individual's story and struggles intersects with all the other stories. 

When they meet the residents of the planet they are totally unaware of their practices, cultural norms, pattern of relationships . They are unprepared for the reality of life on that planet.

Russell investigates belief, love of God, seeming absense of God. What does it mean to believe that God leads you and that God is directing your steps ?

Emilo Sandoz's faith is shattered by his ordeal. 

The title of the book comes from:

Matthew 10:29-30
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father: 30 but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 


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