I never blogged about the first time I read The Sparrow, but I wish I had. It left me feeling so conflicted the first time I read it. The ending left me feeling completely miserable, affected me so profoundly, but I found much of the first three quarters of the book to be difficult to connect with. But after I finished reading The Sparrow, it stuck with me. I just kept thinking about it. When that meme went around on Facebook a few weeks ago, where you listed your most influential books, The Sparrow made my list. It’s a book I haven’t really stopped thinking about since I read it: the tragedy of it, yes, but also the characters, the science fiction element, and, the questions of fate and faith and what we do when we’re faced with the impossible.
When I found out Trish was reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell in September, I knew I wanted to join in for a reread. Would I feel less conflicted this time around? Would it be less powerful?
It took me a long time to reread The Sparrow, as long as it took me to read it the first time. I still found the beginning to be very slow, but I find nonlinear narratives difficult to get into in general. They are often very rewarding, though, and The Sparrow is proof of that. As sudden and abrupt as the ending felt, the novel prepares you for it and it felt real. What I appreciated much more this time around was the reality of The Sparrow. If there was a discovery of another planet, if we had the technology to get there, and if we did get there – I believed it could happen in this way.
The story really brightens and comes alive for me when Anne is introduced to the story. I understand and appreciate Emilio more through her eyes. The rest of the characters do feel somewhat less solid in comparison to Emilio and Anne, but Jimmy, DW, George, and Sofia all have their place in my heart. I think this is the novel’s strength and why the structure made it somewhat difficult to connect with the rest of the novel: I just wanted to spend all my time in 2019 with Emilio, his friends, and the discovery. I loved the joy of the scientific discovery, the pleasure the crew took in discovering something new about Rakhat. Emilio’s questioning of fate and faith, which propelled him on the journey that eventually lead him to tragedy, felt raw and honest.
These are the things that stuck with me after I read The Sparrow for the first time, and I imagine they are the things I will remember after this reread. It’s a beautifully written novel and I am glad I reread it, if only to sort out all the feelings I had about it. While I don’t expect it’s a novel I’ll reread again in the near future, it’s one I want to share with people, encourage them to read. It makes you think. It makes you wonder what you would have done in Anne’s position, in Emilio’s. And that, I think, is this novel’s greatest strength and its staying power.