Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Children of God
by Mary Doria Russell
Read by Anna Fields
17 hours, 57 minutes
Published 1998 by Villard

Publisher's Summary: 
The only member of the original mission to the planet Rakhat to return to Earth, Father Emilio Sandoz has barely begun to recover from his ordeal when the Society of Jesus calls upon him for help in preparing for another mission to Alpha Centauri. Despite his objections and fear, he cannot escape his past or the future. 

Old friends, new discoveries and difficult questions await Emilio as he struggles for inner peace and understanding in a moral universe whose boundaries now extend beyond the solar system and whose future lies with children born in a faraway place.

My Thoughts: 
Children of God is Mary Doria Russell's sequel to 1996's The Sparrow, which I read in 2014 (my review here). I loved that book, it was a standout in a year of great reads. It broke my heart and I have never forgotten it. I had either never realized there was a sequel or forgotten all about it until a co-worker mentioned it a while back. I was eager to get back to find out what happened to Emilio Sandoz, who hasn't left my mind in 10 years. 

What didn't work for me: 
  • Like The SparrowChildren of God moves back and forth in time. For some reason, this time around that didn't really work for me. I felt like too much was revealed too soon. 
  • Russell asks us to forgive characters in this one that we had grown to (let's be honest here) hate in The Sparrow. As a person, I understand that people are complicated and grow and change over time. As a reader, I often struggle with that. I had a hard time forgiving Supaari (the character who sold Emilio in The Sparrow) regardless of what we learn about him in this one and never could stop hating Hlavin Kitheri. 
  • A lot of time was spent developing a relationship between Emilio and a woman on earth that he plans to marry, before he is kidnapped and returned to Rakhat. It was what helped Emilio heal but then Russell turns around and does a terrible thing to him again. Later, we're apparently meant to believe that it was God's plan that he return to Rakhat. Not a fan of a plan that causes so much pain.
  • The Sparrow was very much centered around a few central characters, a family of sorts, Children of God is a much broader novel. There are a lot of characters in this one and, when listening especially, it's difficult to keep track of them and equally difficult to care about them.  
  • Sorry, but I really didn't "get" the ending. And it felt a little bit like the whole book led to a point of "trust in God." 
What I liked: 
  • Emilio Sandoz. He's perhaps an almost too good character, but he is not without depth of character. He struggles with forgiveness, faith, trust, and an ability to open himself back up again. 
  • Although there are a lot of characters in this one and we don't necessarily get as in depth a look into them as we would with a smaller "cast," we do get to see the complexity of many of the characters. 
  • Russell really explores how our intentions, even when meant for the best, can also go terribly awry or be misinterpreted. 
  • Russell explores the universality of conflict, how important communication and compromise are, how vital forgiveness is. Even if I did have a problem with forgiveness of particular characters, I understand that, in order to find peace, forgiveness is essential. 
  • As a person who struggles with faith and long ago gave up on organized religion, I appreciate that Russell puts organized religion, its methods, and intentions under a microscope. 
Would I recommend it? I've got such mixed feelings. I'm not sure The Sparrow needed a sequel. I'm not sure I gained anything by there being one, other than that Emilio finally found some peace. 

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