Flashback Friday: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Et voila! A new weekly event here at Bookshelf Fantasies!

Flashback Fridays will be a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

My rules — since I’m making this up:

  1. Has to be something I’ve read myself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! As soon as I figure out how**, I’ll open this up to others, so put your thinking caps on: What are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

**I think I’ve got it! Add your link below — join in for Flashback Friday!

And without further ado, here’s my inaugural pick for Flashback Friday:

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

(published 1996)

From Amazon:

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong… Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.

I can’t overstate just how very much I love this book. It has it all: compelling characters, a science fiction slant, discovery of new worlds, fascinating interpersonal dynamics, and a confounding mystery at its core.

Lead character Emilio is so magnetic, so fascinating, and so wounded that I wanted to jump into the story to protect and defend him. Author Mary Doria Russell, an anthropologist by training, creates a world unto itself, with culture, mores, and languages that are unique and yet fully formed.

Whenever I’m asked to name my favorite books, The Sparrow is right there in the top 5. Over the years, I’ve given copies to friends and family members, and I’ve recommended it to dozens more. If you’ve never read The Sparrow, give it a try! You’ll thank me for it — I promise.

So, what’s your favorite blast for the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. Time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation.

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: This is my first attempt at a blog hop! Join in, post a Friday Flashback on your blog, and share your link below. Let’s get this party started!

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