The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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The Sparrow is a novel about a remarkable man, a living saint, a life-long celibate and Jesuit priest, who undergoes an experience so harrowing and profound that it makes him question the existence of God. This experience--the first contact between human beings and intelligent extraterrestrial life--begins with a small mistake and ends in a horrible catastrophe.

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About Mary Doria Russell

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Mary Doria Russell received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois-Urbana, her M.A. in Social Anthropology from Northeastern University, and her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In the process of earning her degrees, Russell studied linguistics, genetics, anatomy, archaeology, and geology-all of which have found their way into her critically acclaimed debut novel. Prior to The Sparrow, Russell had only written scientific articles-on subjects ranging from bone biology to cannibalism-and technical manuals for medical equipment as complex as nuclear magnetic resonance scanners. In her own words, she admits, "I had a great time, published a lot of stuff, won a bunch of awards and grants, but eventually got fed up with academia and quit." Making the transition from scientific and technical writing to fiction wasn't easy. Russell estimates, however, that "only about twenty-two anthropologists, world-wide, read my academic publications and nobody reads computer manuals, so I figured that if even just my friends read my novel, I'd be way ahead in terms of readership because I have a lot of friends." A recent convert to Judaism, Russell has nevertheless maintained a strong connection with the Catholic education of her childhood. Asked why she created such a detailed look at faith in a higher power and religion in her debut novel, Russell explains, "I wanted to evaluate, as an adult, issues that had lain dormant for me since adolescence, to study the religion of my youth, to revisit the source of my values and ethics. That's why I chose to write about men who are collectively among the most admirable and best educated of Catholic priests, the Jesuits. Writing The Sparrow allowed me to weigh the risks and the benefits of a belief in God, to examine the role of religion in the lives of many people." Mary Doria Russell lives in Cleveland, Ohio, ("and likes it very much, thank you") with her husband, Don, and their son, Daniel. She is currently working on the sequel to The Sparrow, titled Children of God.
Published May 27, 2008 by Ballantine Books. 450 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction, Romance, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

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The newborn are slain and eaten, as is the party from Earth, except for Sandoz, who is taken to the strange capitol city and sold into a brothel.

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BC Books

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In addition to the compelling characters and adventuresome (if unevenly paced) plot, The Sparrow brings with it discussions of human nature and the nature of God, the impact first contact can have on an indigenous population (good intentions of the newcomers notwithstanding), and the dismantling ...

Aug 31 2007 | Read Full Review of The Sparrow

BC Books

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Their interrelationships are finely and leisurely drawn, as we see Sandoz meeting and learning to love Anne (a physician who was a Latin student of the priest’s), George (Anne’s husband and an engineer), Jimmy (the gangly astronomer who discovered the alien life) and Sofia (a computer savant with...

Aug 31 2007 | Read Full Review of The Sparrow


So in the spirit of Cannonball Read and expanding my literary choices, I read The Sparrow (1996) by Mary Doria Russell, which included both an author I had never read as well as a genre I rarely read.

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Open Book Society

(Amazon) Review: Going into a book knowing that things will not end well (Emilio is the lone survivor of the mission) raises expectations.

Apr 10 2012 | Read Full Review of The Sparrow

The Ranting Dragon

The novel bounces between the past leading up to and through the expedition, and the future where the Father General and a few other Jesuit priests try to determine what happened on Rakhat, the alien homeworld, and if Emilio is truly guilty as accusations claim.

Oct 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sparrow

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