There aren't many novels I feel can be safely quantified under the tired cliche of 'life changing'. Mary Doria Russell's 'The Sparrow' is one of those rare exceptions. Told with a beautiful ease of style and a flawless pacing we learn the result of the first trip by humans to meet an alien race. Deep societal issues are explored with an elegance and understanding most rare. Father Emilio Sandoz represents one of the deepest and most complex character studies in fiction and his transformation becomes the reader's. As the sole survivor of the journey, his story is told through flashbacks and we discover the flaws in preconceiving not only another race of beings but also; ultimately, ourselves. Deep, funny, and wise, 'The Sparrow' hits on every note and will linger in one's thoughts for a long, long time.
Emilio Sandoz, a brilliant Jesuit priest, seems like the perfect leader for the first expedition to an extraterrestrial culture. However, when Sandoz returns to Earth 20 years later as the mission's sole survivor, he is accused of unspeakable violence and depravity. Why? An extraordinary fiction debut, by paleoanthropologist Mary Doria Russell.