I have not had a book hangover in a few years, but The Sparrow gave me a really hard, really good on. I spent days avoiding reading or watching anything fiction. The story clung to me, and my brain did not want (yet) to be distracted from processing what I had just experienced. I paused my own writing, focusing on research I needed to do anyway. I spent a week wondering if I should pick up and start reading the book again. (I didn’t, but it is in my room, waiting for me). The last book hangover I remember was American Gods. That was three years ago. I was in Nepal at the time, so dealing with it was a lot easier than this one. Even if I watched TV, it was in Nepali or Hindi, so my comprehension was pretty superficial.
So I loved The Sparrow. (And actually, I feel my book hangover coming back writing this post.)
The basic plot is relatively simple: a group of humans travel to a new planet to make contact with an alien species. They are a mix of Jesuit priests, a doctor/anthropologist, a engineer, and an incredible, Jewish generalist. Only one returns, broken in body and in spirit.
Doria Russell takes these building blocks to explore and dissect and rip apart and stitch together and unravel the experience of being human. Beyond religion. Beyond science. That dual and fluctuating feeling of being important and insignificant.
This book was the kind that you read every moment you can find. Until the end is close, and then you have to be home, alone, with no interruptions (maybe the purring of the cat) as you finally finish it. The book that you need to know and don’t want to end. A book that when you are done, you stare. At the wall, at the floor, at the cover. You open it to start again. And close it again. You could devour this story again and again and again (and you will), but for now, you need to just sit with it. To let the images run through your brain and dream of the characters. To unstitch yourself from this world that you barely noticed you moved to.
I’ve rewritten and unwritten a review of this book several times since I finished. But my words feel empty as they grasp at what I need to say about it. I’m waiting for my mother and my sister and my closest friends to finally read it. Because I need you to have a reference point for me to talk about it, about the story, about the depth at which it has affected me.
So, dear blog readers, if you were looking for the possibility of this kind of experience, I highly recommend you get a copy. We can use the comments to book club it when you are ready too.