Flashback Friday REWIND: The Sparrow

ffbutton2Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started here at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

I’ll be traveling for a few weeks during the month of June, so rather than skipping Flashback Friday,  I thought I’d dig back into my FF archives and revisit some of my very first flashback books.

My premiere Flashback Friday post focused on  one of my all-time favorite books, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

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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.

For the next two weeks, I’ll feature other “rewind” Flashback Friday posts. Stay tuned!

What flashback book is on your mind this week?

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog (and mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme, if you please!)
  • Leave your link in the comments below
  • Check out other FF posts… and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Nothing like the home team playing in (AND SWEEPING) the World Series to seriously interfere with one’s reading agenda! (and I’m not normally a baseball fan at all… but ya gotta go with the flow). Back to the books! What’s on the agenda for this week?

From last week:

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: I finished my re-read of this beautiful book. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

I finally got a chance to attack my pile of library books. First up: Breed by Chase Novak. A great choice for pre-Halloween reading — boy, is this a disturbing book!

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): Another couple of very good chapters.

And this week’s new agenda:

I should be done with Breed either today or tomorrow, assuming I can stomach it.

Next up: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Finally! I’m hoping to get this one read before it’s due back at the library next weekend.

And after that? One of two young adult novels waiting for my attention: Either The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater or Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin.

My son and I have started a new kids’ book by Eva Ibbotson. So far, so good! He does tend to bail on books after a few chapters, so the fact that we’ve gotten about a third of the way through it already is a good sign.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Chapters 60 and 61 this week, and it’s my turn to write chapter summaries for our group re-read. Must put on my thinking cap!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

A punch in the heart: Books that take your breath away

Do you ever feel physically drained after reading a book? Have you ever read a book so intense that you feel like you’ve been bruised and beaten? And I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way: it’s just that I have such a visceral reaction to certain books that I end up feeling like I can barely draw a breath.

And yet, books that pack such a tremendous punch often end up being my favorites.

Take my reading experience of the past week. Knowing that I’d be attending a speaking event featuring author Mary Doria Russell, I decided to re-read her first novel The Sparrow. The Sparrow has been one of my best-loved books ever since I first encountered it. I first read The Sparrow in 2005, after picking it up in a used book store.  Why I originally decided to read it, I don’t know. I think I’d heard of the book before, but certainly it wasn’t one that had been recommended to me by anyone I knew. And yet, something about it drew me, and once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve since read The Sparrow several times, on my own and with a book group, and each time, I find something new to love in it, some new ideas to mull over, some new emotional response to the moral dilemmas it presents.

I’m sure I annoyed my friends and family to an even higher degree than usual this week, as I kept finding passages to read aloud, or burst out with outrage or sorrow over something that had befallen one of the characters. It’s amusing, in a way, that I’d react so strongly to something I’ve read before. Clearly, the book holds no surprises for me at this point, and yet the joys and sorrows of the characters still affect me as if they were happening to real people whom I care about.

I want to protect Emilio Sandoz. I’d love to be friends with Anne Edwards and get invited to one of her fabulous dinner parties. I’d like to spend time with Sofia Mendes and get her to loosen up a bit — maybe having a woman friend would be healthy for her. I’d love to hang out with D. W. Yarbrough and get the benefit of his words of wisdom. I could go on and on, but you see the point. The Sparrow is not some huge, 1000+ page doorstop of a book, but within its pages, the author has created not only an entire fictional world, but a cast of characters whom I feel I know. And when bad things happen to them — and they do, as it’s made clear from the very first page — it hurts. On the other hand, when these characters encounter beauty and joy — and again, they do — I want to celebrate with them and share in the glory of the moment.

I suppose the reason I’m even sitting down to write this is to preserve in some way my  moments in the world contained within The Sparrow. I finished reading it late last night, and I just don’t feel quite ready to dive into something else and leave behind the mood and the emotions evoked by this book.

I know there have been a handful of other books in my reading life that have affected me as strongly (or nearly as strongly). What about you? What books have you read that have made a dent in your heart? What books ensnare your emotions and don’t let go? I find that while these type of books may be difficult to get through, they’re ultimately the ones that I love the best. Share your thoughts, please!

The Monday agenda

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Busy week ahead, so let’s dive right in. What’s on the agenda for this week?

From last week:

Quality over quantity, for sure! Real life (and by that, I mean the portion of my life that does not revolve around books) got in the way, big time, and it seemed that reading was relegated to the back burner — a most painful and frustrating situation for me. Here’s hoping that the coming week is a little less crazy. So, last week’s progress:

The Diviners by Libba Bray: Done! Loved it. My review is here.

And that’s really it. I caught up on a few weeks’ worth of the New York Times book review sections, but made no progress on any other books.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (group re-read): Moving forward, getting closer to the end.

And this week’s new agenda:

Due to a weird confluence of coincidences (did I just make that up? sounds weird), The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell has been on my mind. My daughter just finished reading The Sparrow this past week, and was blown away. My husband, who relies on me for his book recommendations, is ready for something new, and I’m pushing The Sparrow on him. In addition, I’m going to hear Mary Doria Russell speak this week about The Sparrow! As a consequence of all this, I’ve decided to ignore my library stack and re-read The Sparrow myself. This is one of my very favorite books, which I’ve read once on my own and once as part of a book group. It’s been about five years, and I believe it’s time to treat myself to a re-read. I can’t say it enough times — if you’ve never read this book, what are you waiting for?

Assuming I finish up by mid-week, next on the agenda will be Breed by Chase Novak and then Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Sadly, I’ll be returning some books unread to the library this week, as there simply isn’t enough time for me to read them all before their due dates. Back on the request list they go!

My son and I finished up the book we were reading together (his review is here; my review is here) — looking forward to picking out some new bedtime reading material.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon: Our online re-read is up to chapters 58 and 59 this week, and they’re good ones. My turn to write chapter summaries is next week. Gulp.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

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!