The Sparrow Read-along: week two

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Blessed with impressive funding and free from the concerns of global politics or corporate profit, a mission to another planet becomes far more feasible. But the Jesuits believe they have another advantage in their corner: Deus vult.

Welcome back to the SciFiMonth Read-along of Mary Doria Russell’s classic debut, The Sparrow. Expect spoilers for the first half of the book in this discussion.

This week, our companions commit to going to Rakhat. Sofia finds herself a free agent and chooses to accompany the priests; Anne decides there are worse things than dying in space, and agrees to join the crew. Emilio finds his own secret doubts swept aside as events conspire to seduce him into fully believing in God’s will…

Would you go to Rakhat if you were in Anne/Sofia’s shoes? Why/not?

By the time I’m Anne’s age (and assuming my ‘George’ gets to come with me), I’ll likely only have one close relative to give me second thoughts about turning my back on Earth and risking everything in space. I don’t think I’d hesitate for a second (sorry cuz) – I’d be clamouring to get aboard and go. But unlike Anne, I’ve spent a lifetime reading science fiction – of course I’d jump at the chance to go to another planet!

What would be your essential items to pack on a voyage into the unknown? Coffee? Duct tape?

Forget practicalities (because you have to take sensible provisions and gear and back-up gear just in case), let’s talk the important things: personal items.

Books, obviously – ebooks is fine, but a long voyage and a possibility of no way home would require a lot of books. After that, I’m pretty flexible.

Having done a fair few big trips in my life (from a 9-week archaeological dig in the remote Jordanian desert to a hazardous 2-week drive across the Outback) and having had to cope with living and working on the wrong side of the planet for 2-3 months, I’ve learnt that there’s a lot to be said for packing something for the days when you feel alone and afraid and in need of comfort. For me, that would be a snuggly blanket or cardigan; and a stash of really good chocolate and some tea. Because sometimes – shocker! – books aren’t enough.

As for the big questions: coffee over duct tape (sorry love. Although you know what I’m like without coffee, so you’d likely share my prioritisation on this one!)

Anne and Emilio both talk passionately about vows this week and give Jimmy a new perspective. What do you think?

Like Anne, I think I used to be a hard-ass, but these days I’m a bit more flexible. Sort of. For me it’s not about a fixed set of rules (I think relationships are negotiated by the people involved, and can be whatever works for them), it’s about trust. However, I’m not forgiving when it comes to breaches of trust.

One of things I love about Anne and George’s relationship is the depth of trust. They know each other inside out; they are each comfortable with the other being attracted to other people, because it doesn’t diminish how they feel about one another. It’s not clear that either have had an affair at any point – but if they did, they worked it out, and that’s good enough for me.

On the other hand, while clerical celibacy is a weird social construct I don’t care for personally, who can you negotiate it with as a priest? Your order? (good luck) God? In which case – assuming all parties are consenting adults – who am I to judge a man’s relationship with God? I think I’d rather see an end to clerical celibacy than figure out where I stand on this topic tho 😉

There has been much allusion to God’s will this week, both positive (removing hindrances) and negative (Alan’s death). Any thoughts you’d like to share?

I think the thing that hurt the most this week was the dawning understanding of Emilio’s relationship with his faith. From a committed Jesuit who chose to believe and to remain true to his vows – because his faith was founded in practice and excellence as a form of prayer, and in the hope that his dedication and patience would one day be rewarded – to a true believer who thought he felt the eye of God upon him on Rakhat.

We know where Emilio ends up. No wonder he feels so bitter and betrayed.

Anything else you’d like to reflect on?


I remain very conflicted about Father Superior Giuliani. I think he genuinely means well, but PLEASE STOP TRYING TO HELP FATHER. Ahem.

Discussion Schedule

The format is a casual buddy read – pace yourself to the weekly discussions, or zoom to the end if you Need To Know Why It Happened. The schedule is the earliest date to start a discussion to allow the crew to reach a similar point before we share our spoilery thoughts:

  • Wednesday 6th November | Beginning through end Chapter Eleven
  • Wednesday 13th November | Chapter Twelve – Nineteen
  • Wednesday 20th November | Chapter Twenty – Twenty-six
  • Wednesday 27th November | Chapter Twenty-seven – end

Please – no spoilers for future weeks’ chapters!

Discussion prompts can be found on the Goodreads group (I will add a link on Twitter when they go up each week).


So far, the following SciFiMonth crew are joining me:

  • Lisa of Dear Geek Place | Week One | Week Two
  • The Captain of Captain’s Quarters | Review (‘ware, spoilers)
  • Mark on the Goodreads group
  • There’s Always Room For One More | Week One
  • Amithi in the comments here at There’s Always Room For One More

Feel free to join us from your blog, in tweets (tag @SciFiMonth and #TheSparrow) or pile into the Goodreads group to share your reactions.