Short Book Review: The Sparrow

The back-cover blurb of this book kind of made me want to announce, in an echoey voice, “Jesuits … in … spaaaace!” That doesn’t feel quite appropriate anymore, as it’s kind of somber. The characters feel real enough, though reading their many laughing-’til-they cry conversations is funnier to them than to me (you kind of had to be there). Lots of it feels awkwardly or flatly voyeuristic to me as a result, but maybe that was on purpose.

As for the alien world they visit, the details might seem predictable and not as shocking as intended to anyone who’s already read The Time Machine, but the class commentary of H.G. Wells’s book was actually the centerpiece. In The Sparrow, author Maria Doria Russell (a former academic) is more concerned with the scientific precision of how such a society could come about (and be thrown into turmoil), but the real thematic core is how to reconcile faith with tragedy. Essentially, it’s a modern update of so many tales of missionaries meeting new peoples and dealing with unintended consequences. I suppose I’d recommend this to anyone who thinks you’d have to be crazy to be a Catholic priest, or to anyone who’s ever wondered how the universe can seem to guide you and screw you in the same week.

I also have the sequel if you want to borrow it. I think I might have liked it better.