• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

A book I loved, in case you missed it! Jesuits in space find extraterrestrial life--and explore the limits of their faith. This is unlike anything I've read, and Russell is a master of a guide here.

In The Sparrow, humans find proof of extraterrestrial life, and the UN begins deliberating about how best to proceed. Meanwhile a small team from the Society of Jesus quickly strikes out on its own to approach the planet first. The life they find there is wondrous and overwhelming, and it forces them to rethink their assumptions about humanity and the universe.


About this book, Russell says, “We seem to believe that if we act in accordance with our understanding of God’s will, we ought to be rewarded. But in doing so we’re making a deal that God didn’t sign on to.


“In our world, if people believe at all, they believe that God is love, God is hearts and flowers, and that God will send you theological candy all the time. But if you read Torah, you realize that God has a lot to answer for. God is a complex personality. I wanted to explore that complexity and that moral ambiguity. God gives us rules but those are rules for us, not for God.”


This book! This book is about everything. Family, pain, love, music, influence, trust, wonder, brutality, invention, discovery, loyalty, and most of all, faith—in some cases, lost and found again. And also...aliens.


I don’t usually read books again, but I could use a copy of my own to highlight upon rereading. It took a little time to get going for me, but then I was blown away.

Any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Jesuits in space! Russell was turned down 31 times before this book was picked up by an agent. Now it's been in print for 25 years and is beloved by many readers. Have you read this one?


Russell has also written Children of God (The Sparrow, #2); the character-driven historical fiction book Doc (about Doc Holliday), which I really liked; and other books set in the American West (such as Epitaph); historical fiction (2019's Women of the Copper Country), and novels relating to faith, such as Thread of Grace. Clearly I need to catch up on more Russell books!