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Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
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Children of God (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Mary Doria Russell

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2,331962,705 (4)242
Member:txorig
Title:Children of God
Authors:Mary Doria Russell
Info:Black Swan (1999), Edition: Tenth, Paperback, 509 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Rating:*****
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Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (1998)

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Mary Doria Russell’s sequel to her astonishing debut, The Sparrow, finds Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz still struggling with the trauma of the events that left him the only survivor of the mission to the planet Rakhat. He is beginning to be able to accept love and friendship and meaning in life to replace the hole left by his loss of faith, when the church tries to convince him to return - as the foremost expert on Rakhati languages and the only human being with any experience of the complex social structures of the two sentient species. Sandoz’ resignation from the society of Jesus and the priesthood leaves the leadership with a dilemma; if Emilio’s return to Rakhat is vital to God’s plan, does this end justify the means?

This is another terrific book, with superbly drawn main characters and startlingly beautiful prose, that explores some deep philosophical questions - although mostly the personal, universal ones of belief, doubt and purpose. What drives us and how we come to terms with tragedy and failure and loss and injury. It is about forgiveness, of others and of ourselves.

There is one Big Issue touched upon; should contact with a pristine culture respect their social structures and allow harm to some of its members to continue, or try not to intervene at the risk (perhaps certainty) of destroying it? Leaving aside the fact that change from contact may be inevitable, this book makes no easy answers; Rakhati society is turned upside down - quite literally, with the ‘oppressed’ becoming the new rulers and the previously dominant species possibly facing total extinction and, in any case, a decades-long war with millions of casualties.

The book is not without fault. The space travel took me out of suspension of disbelief somewhat; while the idea of relativity is well used, there is only the merest attempt to make the travel realistic (gravity approximated by the acceleration of the ship), while the ‘crew’ (who seem more like passengers) cook meals on a stove and drink wine from glasses.

There also seems to be an odd gap, perhaps an omission due to editing. The storyline featuring Sofia Mendez, thought killed with the the rest of the mission in the first book is riveting as she teaches Runa a different way of life than subservience and her son Isaac - a severely autistic savant - explores the music of Rakhat and of Earth. They disappear from the story for several decades (if not many pages, due to the way the book is structured) and this feels like a loss. More could be made of Sofia’s transformation into the stateswoman she becomes and, in Isaac’s final brief appearance, he seems reduced from the fascinatingly focussed person we knew to some sort of holy fool happy to impart his message.

More importantly, some of the conclusions are, perhaps, a little pat. While in The Sparrow the question of whether the events were simply a combination of chance and human agency or part of God’s plan is left satisfyingly unclear and open to interpretation, here there is a rather blatant authorial shove in the direction of the divine.

Despite these flaws, The Sparrow and Children of God (which are very much as a single work) are wonderful reads and explorations of belief and morality. I am someone to whom the concept of a higher power is quite alien, but the struggles and motivations of those characters with such a thing at their core was made real to me.
( )
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
I loved The Sparrow, and I'm glad I finally read this second part of the story. More than just a "what happens next" to that tragic tale, this is a story of growth, redemption, forgiveness, and change. The different cultures on Rakhat are interesting, and it's clear the author has thought through the anthropology of these peoples. The moral dilemmas are compelling and complicated where they could so easily be trite. The two books are much more as a pair than either could be individually. ( )
  lavaturtle | Apr 16, 2017 |
Fantastic conclusion to the "Sparrow", Mary Doria Russell doesn't miss a beat in her followup novel of faith, aliens, and redemption. Recommended. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
There's something exhilarating about a book which spans two planets and two very different timelines, not to mention an ever-changing array of characters and languages. I found this book maybe a little less gripping than the first in the duology, but it really was necessary to conclude the story. I only wish I'd gotten around to reading it sooner, rather than leaving a full year in between books. ( )
  Amelia_Smith | Aug 28, 2016 |
I'm not enjoying this and I loved The Sparrow so much that I don't want to change my experience of that novel at all.
  thebookmagpie | Aug 7, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Doria Russellprimary authorall editionscalculated
di Bodone,GiottoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For
KATE SWEENEY
and
JENNIFER TUCKER

hermanas de mi alma
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Sweating and nauseated, Father Sandoz sat on the edge of his bed with his head in what was left of his hands.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 044900483X, Paperback)

Children of God is the sequel to Mary Doria Russell's 1996 The Sparrow, which saw a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat end in disaster. The sole survivor of that mission, a priest named Emilio Sandoz, returned a beaten and broken man, having suffered rape and mutilation at the hands of enigmatic aliens. Now the Jesuits want to go back to Rakhat, and they want Sandoz aboard the new mission. But Sandoz has renounced his priesthood and even found a measure of happiness with his new wife and stepdaughter. Meanwhile, on Rakhat, contact with the humans has thrown the local culture into turmoil, precipitating a war between Rakhat's two sentient races. As forces conspire to send Emilio back to Rakhat--and toward a possible reconciliation with God--the planet verges on genocidal destruction. Children of God is a more polished novel than The Sparrow, and the story is equally compelling.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:11 -0400)

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A priest named Emilio Sandoz embarks on a quest to demystify God's providence that leads him to question the possibility of faith.

(summary from another edition)

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