The Sparrow share button
Mary Doria Russell
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.50 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.96 (d)
Pages 448
Publisher Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date September 1997
ISBN 9780449912553
Book ISBN 10 0449912558
About Book

"A NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT . . . Russell shows herself to be a skillful storyteller who subtly and expertly builds suspense."
—USA Today

"AN EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED . . . If you have to send a group of people to a newly discovered planet to contact a totally unknown species, whom would you choose? How about four Jesuit priests, a young astronomer, a physician, her engineer husband, and a child prostitute-turned-computer-expert? That's who Mary Doria Russell sends in her new novel, The Sparrow. This motley combination of agnostics, true believers, and misfits becomes the first to explore the Alpha Centuri world of Rakhat with both enlightening and disastrous results. . . . Vivid and engaging . . . An incredible novel."
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"POWERFUL . . . Father Emilio Sandoz [is] the only survivor of a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat, 'a soul . . . looking for God.' We first meet him in Italy . . . sullen and bitter. . . . But he was not always this way, as we learn through flashbacks that tell the story of the ill-fated trip. . . . The Sparrow tackles a difficult subject with grace and intelligence."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"SMOOTH STORYTELLING AND GORGEOUS CHARACTERIZATION . . . Important novels leave deep cracks in our beliefs, our prejudices, and our blinders. The Sparrow is one of them."
—Entertainment Weekly


From Barnes & Noble

This is a first novel. There is no way on earth that I would have pegged it as a first novel; even those things about it that I consider flawed are flawed with that confident sense of assurance that speaks of deliberate choice, not floundering. Ostensibly about the first contact with the aliens who live on the planet of Rakhat, this is a book about faith, hope, and charity, a discourse of sorts about the nature of religious belief and the desire for it. If this makes it sound dry, it's not; Russell never lectures. What she has to say about the magic -- dark and light -- of faith and belief she says through characters that are so well drawn you almost can't help but love them, suffer for them, suffer with them and hope. This is an astonishing book, at once literate and accessible, and I don't think I can recommend it highly enough. I missed it in hardcover; I'm glad I didn't miss it in its first paperback incarnation.
—Michelle West

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

An enigma wrapped inside a mystery sets up expectations that prove difficult to fulfill in Russell's first novel, which is about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. The enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith. Suspense escalates as the narrative ping-pongs between the years 2016, when Sandoz begins assembling the team that first detects signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and 2060, when a Vatican inquest is convened to coax an explanation from the physically mutilated and emotionally devastated priest. A vibrant cast of characters who come to life through their intense scientific and philosophical debates help distract attention from the space-opera elements necessary to get them off the Earth. Russell brings her training as a paleoanthropologist to bear on descriptions of the Runa and Jana'ata, the two races on Rakhat whose differences are misunderstood by the Earthlings, but the aliens never come across as more than variations of primitive earthly cultures. The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz's degradation isn't the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together. BOMC, QPB and One Spirit Book Club selections. (Oct.)