Mary Doria Russell's novel, “ The Sparrow ”, tells the story of Emilio Sandoz, who is a Jesuit priest. He and is companions travel to explore a newly discovered planet. The planet was found because snippets of beautiful music were heard when radio telescopes were listening in on that part of the galaxy where the planet is located.
Although the novel is labeled as a science fiction, it can be viewed from a much larger perspective. Also, the book does have some strong religious undertones, but you don't have to be religious to read the book or think about the ideas that it raises. I enjoyed it because it was definitely a surprise, and it poses many valuable questions that would normally be found within in a self-help, philosophy or psychology manual.
The novel tells the story from three different time periods. It starts off with a brief introduction of the characters, and the discovery of the planet Rakhat. Then the story is told from the perspective of Emilio after he returns to Earth, and from the perspective of the travelers as they are getting to know the new planet. On the planet they meet the inhabitants, and the story revolves around the differences in the cultures.Some of the questions that the author leaves unanswered for the reader are:
- Are we are all wounded in some way?
- What wounds have we inflicted on others?
- How have others helped us to mend fences?
- How have others helped us to grieve?
- How have others become our family?
- How do we fill our needs (our emptiness)?
- How do our wounds keep us stationary?
- How do our wounds focus our attention?