“He had…discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so, had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment that he learned, truly, to fear God.”
THE SPARROW, Mary Doria Russell
Several years ago I was in an interfaith book club that read only spiritual books. Sadly, it dissolved as people moved on and away, but it was during that time that I had asked a dear priest friend of mine his favorite work of fiction, with strong faith elements. He replied, without hesitation, THE SPARROW, by Mary Doria Russell.
Father Michael, you must be nuts.
I forgot about the book until one of my blogger friends, Heather Johnson, recommended it to me. I bought it, couldn’t put it down, and was depressed for weeks afterward.
And now, I have to recommend it to you.
It has taken me a month since reading it to figure out how to encourage you to read it when it made me so miserable, when yesterday, I saw someone write on Twitter that she enjoyed novels that made her miserable. I realized that in some sick way, I do, too. It’s like a car accident–I can’t look away.
I can’t do justice to the elegance of prose, the depth of theme, and the complexity of the characters and their interactions in THE SPARROW because Russell is one of the finest writers of our generation. The reason I was so devastated by the novel was because of how much I loved the characters. I’ve never met a more “real” cast of people, and even though I knew from the first chapter that only one of them would make it back from a mission to another planet–and horribly scarred, physically and emotionally–I couldn’t stop reading.
I haven’t loved and felt this horrible after a book since THE ROAD, a novel set in post-apocalyptic America, where the burning question of the book is will the father have the courage (?) audacity (?) to shoot his son with their one bullet before he, himself, dies, so the boy is not left to roaming bands of meat-hungry cannibals?
If you haven’t read it, you must.
And along this line of misery reading, I have to recommend THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY. I’m sure most of you have heard of it: it’s LORD OF THE FLIES meets SURVIVOR on steroids. Teenagers from each district of another version of a post-apocalyptic U. S. battle to the death for one victor to win food and prizes for his or her impoverished home city. It’s brutal and horrific and I couldn’t put it down.
So, there you have it: a collection of books with high marks in writing, plot, character development, and devastation. Have you read any of these books? Do you enjoy reading books that make you miserable? Do you have any to add to the list?