Read THE SPARROW with Heather J., Rebecca, and me (UPDATED: and win a copy of the book!)

I haven’t had the chance to re-read many books in the last few years, especially since I began blogging in March 2007. However, there’s one book I read a couple of years earlier that I’ve really been wanting to read again. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow was one of my “Books of the Decade,” and here’s what I said about it (and its sequel) then:

“If I had a TBRR (to be re-read) list, these two novels would be right near the top of it. Their blend of religious/philosophical themes with fantasy/science fiction elements isn’t entirely new, but Russell does something special with it, crafting a compelling, emotionally resonant narrative. I haven’t come across enough people who have read these – but among those who have, I haven’t found anyone who wasn’t wowed by them.”

Here’s a description of The Sparrow from, but it’s just a taste of what this book offers:

The Sparrow takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul. It is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a twenty-first-century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture. Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the mission’s sole survivor–only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission’s failure.

In clean, effortless prose and with captivating flashes of wit, Russell creates memorable characters who navigate a world of exciting ideas and disturbing moral issues without ever losing their humanity or humor. Both heartbreaking and triumphant, and rich in literary pleasures great and small, The Sparrow is a powerful and haunting book.

More about the novel, via LibraryThing: Product Description (ISBN 0552997773, Paperback)
Combining elements of science fiction and spiritual philosophy, this novel is a tale of the devastating consequences of a scientific mission to make contact with an extraterrestrial culture. Product Description (ISBN 0679451501, Hardcover)
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.

Are you intrigued yet?

Two others who have been wowed by this book – and said so in the comments on that “Books of the Decade” post – are Heather J. from Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books and Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog. What’s more, they both mentioned that they’ve read it more than once, and agreed that it deserved more of an audience.

The three of us want to read The Sparrow again, and we want YOU to read it with us! Whether you’re discovering this amazing novel for the first time or have also been looking for an opportunity to re-read it, it would be great to read it together.

Here’s what to do to get in on the action:

Leave a comment right on this post
Grab the above button and use it in your posts about the book (see below)
Get yourself a copy of the book
(*,,,, or try your local library)
Start reading!
If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate—just sign up here and leave your answers to the discussion questions in the comments.

UPDATED TO ADD: Rebecca is offering one lucky reader the opportunity to win a copy of The Sparrow for the Read-along. Get the details and enter the giveaway at The Book Lady’s Blog – entries will be accepted through next Tuesday, February 23!

If you’d like to post about the book while you’re still reading it, feel free to do that (please include the button when you do), but there are two specific dates when we’re asking Read-along participants to blog about it:

  • On March 16, Heather will be posting some discussion questions about The Sparrow at Age 30+…Books, and you’re encouraged to respond to them in a post on your own blog (avoiding spoilers, please – people may be at different places in their reading!), adding your links and thoughts in the comment section of Heather’s post.
  • On March 30, Rebecca will post a lead review and wrap-up at The Book Lady’s Blog. Please post your reviews  and overall impressions of the book that day, leaving links to them in the comments on Rebecca’s post and joining the discussion there.

And if you need further enticement, Heather has suggested a few of the 2010 Reading Challenges that this book can count toward fulfilling:

Awesome Author Challenge
(and if you buy a copy, I’d add the Read Your Own Books Challenge)

…and you may come up with some others!

Are you intrigued NOW? If you are, please let us know with a comment on this post!

*The purchasing link goes through my Amazon Associates account, and I will receive a small percentage of any sales via that link. I have no relationship with the other bookstores listed, but I know that sometimes people want alternatives to Amazon.

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  1. I love The Sparrow and wish I had time to reread it with you. I've always wondered if it would be just as wonderful the second time.
    Russell is from the Cleveland area (like me) and I interviewed her last year on my blog. Did you know that Brad Pitt is interested in this book?

  2. Stacybuckeye – We've left about six weeks open for the Read-along, so if your schedule opens up, we'd love to have you join in any time!

    I can't remember whether or not I knew that Brad Pitt was interested in this book…maybe someone will tell him to join the Read-along, too :-D!

  3. I read this book a few years ago and agree a read-along would be fun. I will have to think about whether I want to read it again….

  4. I am so in on this! I've never read The Sparrow and have been wanting to….AND the discussion opens up during my spring break. So, so, so very excited.

  5. I'm in! 🙂 It's my first time reading the book! I write for, and when I posted something about religion and sci-fi and asked for recommendations on books in that vein, The Sparrow was at the top of everyone's list! 🙂 I've purchased the book, and have already started reading. Will put button on my blog ( later! Woot!

    PS – nice to "meet" you, Florinda! 🙂

  6. I think I can do this. It's the same time as my Gone With the Wind readalongs, but heck, overcommitment is what I do best.

  7. I'd like to join in too, if you have room for me. 😉 A fellow book blogger was gracious enough to gift me a copy of the book during a SantaThing exchange, and this would be a good excuse to dive in. It really does sound good, but you know how often I get around to reading books from my TBR stacks . . . This will be my first time reading it.

  8. The Sparrow is one of my all time favorite books so I'm definitely in! Although I won't be able to post my discussion question answers on the 16th because I have a blog tour on that date, I'll post them on the 17th instead. 🙂

  9. This is such a great book! I don't know if I have time to commit to a re-read and having read the sequel Children of God, which changes so much, I don't know that I want to. But I can't recommend it highly enough to others. I have convinced several book clubs through the years to read it and it always provokes a *lot* of discussion.

  10. It's nice to see a mix of re-readers and first-timers signing up!

    @Kailana – If you decide you do want to re-read it, you're more than welcome!

    @Kristen – That's one reason we decided not to read BOTH books this time, but we'll encourage people to go on to CHILDREN OF GOD on their own. I didn't have the chance to discuss THE SPARROW when I read it the first time, so I'm really excited to be able to do that now.

    @Heather and @Jan – Thanks for re-reading with us! I'll be especially interested in your insights.

    @Teresa – I think Heather J. referred me to the discussion on that you mentioned, and gave you a heads-up on the upcoming Read-along in the comments. Glad you're joining us!

    @Colie, @Amy, @Meghan, @Suey, @SWG, @Wendy (Literary Feline) – So glad to have you along! I'm looking forward to some great discussion with everyone :-).