I first heard about The Sparrow from my friend Florinda, who proclaims it to be among her favorite books. Yet, even when I bought it at a book sale for $2, I resisted reading it because … well, I don’t know, exactly. I was under the impression this would be more science-fiction-oh-look-there’s-a-little-robot-alien-thing-with-antenna-who-speaks-in-jibberish-and-is-taking-me-in-his-spacecraft-to-another-planet than is to my liking (which is to say, not my liking at all).
When Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity announced a readalong of The Sparrow, I thought this would be a great chance to finally read this novel. So far, I’m more into this book than I expected – although not as far along as I would like. Today’s our midway check-in and I’m only on page 75. Still, here are some initial thoughts:
1. How is The Sparrow matching up with your expectations going into the book? Are you surprised by anything?
It’s not as sci-fi as I thought. I mean, yes, right from the beginning you know that travel to another planet is involved. But these are regular, everyday people going into space. They could be you or me. A few of my neighbors could pass for Anne and George.
Also, this was published in 1996. Seeing a chapter dated “Cleveland, Ohio: August 2014 – May 2015” was a little jarring, to say the least. I mean, when you’re reading a science fiction type book set in the future and there’s a chapter dated in the present day and time, that kind of makes you sit up and think, HOLY SHIT, THIS IS TAKING PLACE RIGHT NOW. You gotta admit that’s a bit disconcerting. Not to mention that 1996 feels like it was LAST WEEK. Maybe it’s me but I guess that’s a natural reaction.
Even if, you know, it’s a NOVEL.
If I’m lucky enough to still be around in 2059 (and if I am, somebody better be throwing me a hell of a kick-ass 90th birthday party) I’ll probably feel the same about those parts, too.
2. Do you feel the switching back and forth between past and present to be effective?
Yes. It doesn’t bother me when authors do this. It does make me more inclined to want to read this in longer sittings, which isn’t always possible. (Did I mention I’m only on page 75?) And I have had to go back to previous sections to refresh my memory, but that’s the case with other books that employ this technique, too.
I will say that the “[a]s many as thirty or as few as ten years later” (pg. 21) and “Seventeen years or a single year later” (pg. 22) is confusing and makes me want a timeline.
Or a drink.
3. Which characters do you want to hug and squeeze? Any you’d like to strangle?
As of page 75, I feel most sympathetic to Emilio. (Hugging and squeezing him probably isn’t the best idea, though.) He’s so broken, in so many ways.
For whatever reason, I’m not trusting John Candotti yet and I’m definitely suspicious of that Voelker guy.
4. Any other thoughts? #copoutquestion
Favorite line so far: “He had discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so, had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment that he learned, truly, to fear God.” (pg. 21)
There are books that seem to come along for us to be read at the right time, regardless of how many years they were published. I’m thinking The Sparrow might be that kind of book for me.
It’s not too late to join us in The Sparrow Readalong. Visit Trish’s blog for additional mid-point posts and to sign up.