Title: The Sparrow
Author: Mary Doria Russell
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Literature/ Philosophical Fiction
Length: 431 pages
In 1996, 2019 must have seemed so far away. Now, in 2013, while reading Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow I am struck with the oddity of dates in science fiction novels and the disadvantage of time. Then again, Russell’s novel isn’t science fiction so much as philosophy and a study of human nature and peoples’ thoughts on God.
It is like 1984 that way, a study of the world as it is and always will be, not just one particular society. And like 1984, The Sparrow is timeless.
More than God and philosophy and all those huge thoughts I’m supposed to have about the book – you know, the ones you discuss in Book Club and during literature courses in college – I was stunned by the humanity of it all.
Quotes about relationships like,
“The antagonism he sensed but could not understand. And finally, ending at the beginning, the almost physical jolt of meeting her. Not just an appreciation of her beauty or a plain glandular reaction but a sense of… knowing her already, somehow.”
Russell’s work is full of those moments. Those gut reactions, nuances, and descriptions of sensations everyone has had at some point in their life – or if they haven’t, they will. Those epic feelings of “knowing,” the ones people adore having in movie-like surrealism, but are completely caught off guard and unprepared when they happen.
Russell has written something uniquely philosophical and thought provoking, but amidst aliens and Christian theology, atheism, Judaism… in space travel and anthropology, I was caught off guard by the sensation of understanding these characters so completely that I felt like they were my own. If not my own, a part of me… or maybe, just me.
I am riveted by the emotional anorexic. I am captivated by the seduction of doing God’s purpose. I am amazed by their choices.
More than that, I wish I could write something like this – something so thoughtful. But I suppose the reality of my life is that I am stubborn and obedient, curious and creative, but not thoughtful. No, I am not that.
I seem to be lacking the thoughtfulness and critical thinking skills, the ability to really pursue enlightenment. Instead, I find myself caught up in the safety and the dogma, and more than anything in the whole book, the innocent friendship between Sofia and DW – that was my favorite part. How simple of me to read something so profound and I just want to bask in a cozy friendship.