24 January 2008

Writing on Reading: The Sparrow

One of my favorite experiences in life is discovering a new book I love. That happened to me when I read Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. Russell is an academic who wrote The Sparrow in 1996 as her first foray into fiction. It's a "first contact" novel that has lots of interesting ideas about space travel, alien culture, and near-future Earth. More importantly, however, it explores the tragic spiritual journey of the protagonist, a Jesuit priest, and his relationships with those around him.

Russell does some things "wrong" in terms of her writing. She uses numerous point-of-view characters, even switching between P.O.V.'s mid-scene on occasion. It doesn't matter. The characters hold the novel together and make it interesting from start to finish. Each of the primary characters have exquisitely crafted spiritual and emotional landscapes, both complicated and enriched by their relationships. Russell does not shy away from the tough issues, like celibacy and the belief in God. In fact, the central dilemma of the protagonist is stated quite starkly toward the end of the book: "What a wilderness, to believe you have been seduced and raped by God."

The Sparrow is dark, sometimes excruciatingly so, but it ultimately left me where I leave all good books--reluctant to close the back cover and eager to read the sequel.


ssas said...

exquisitely crafted spiritual and emotional landscapes


Kidding. It's just...I think you were born to write book reviews, Dave.

David E. Hughes said...

You mean . . . as opposed to books?

ssas said...

No, both, of course. ;P