MARQUETTE, Mich.— The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell’s debut novel about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, is the 2010 selection for Marquette County’s One Book, One Community program.

Russell puts her doctorate in biological anthropology to effective use creating worlds, species and societies that are believable and shocking. Considered “a classic of speculative fiction,” The Sparrow’s plot centers on a Jesuit mission to another planet.

In 2019, a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet that will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human."

When Emilio Sandoz returns to Earth in 2059 as the lone survivor of the mission, he is horribly disfigured and guarding a shocking secret. What happened to him on Rakhat? What happened to the others with him and why? The story is about the destruction that can result when one culture steps into another, despite the best of intentions. It forces readers to take a hard look at society—its history and its values—and at what it means to have faith in something.

Russell followed The Sparrow with a sequel, Children of God. Together, the books have won eight regional, national and international awards. They have also been optioned for Hollywood movies starring Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt and they have inspired both a rock opera and a full-scale bel canto opera. Her latest novel is Dreamers of the Day.

The author will come to Marquette to give a presentation and student workshops. Details will be announced later. One Book, One Community is designed to bring Marquette County residents and Northern Michigan University students together to read and discuss the same book. For an updated schedule of discussions and special events, visit

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director