Children of God by Maria Doria Russell
Last year, I read The Sparrow for CBR7, and it totally wrecked me. I’m not even kidding, I finished the book huddled up in bed, surrounded by Kleenex. It was beautiful and damaging and raw all at once. I had heard there was a sequel, but just did not feel quite up to it at the time. Thanks to faintingviolet’s cheerleading, I decided I would be ready to read the sequel in 2016. And I am glad that I read it this year. Faintingviolet’s and Halbs’s reviews are full of insight. I’m still struggling to put together my full review, even after all these weeks. I think it comes down to the fact that the story didn’t work as well for me in linking the philosophy, the characters, and the conflict, as The Sparrow.
As we know from the blurb, Children of God focuses on Emilio Sandoz’s requisition to prepare another team for another mission, one similar to the mission on Rakhat that wrecked him both physically and spiritually. Sandoz has lost his faith and his belief in many good things. While he’s recovering, he discovers earthly happiness and contemplates a major shift in his life. And of course, that’s when the action really cranks into high gear.
I’ve made this as non-spoilery as possible, because there are major spoilers ahead. There are characters you won’t expect to meet, and circumstances that you won’t be prepared for. While Sandoz’s spiritual journey is the overall exploration of the novel, it takes a backseat to more plot-driven endeavors. I also felt that the structure of the novel worked less proficiently here than it did in The Sparrow. And there are instances and plot points that felt a bit heavy-handed to me. Nevertheless, we meet a character named Isaac, who is stunning and lovely at once. Based on certain cues and characterization points, I believe he is autistic but deeply gifted as a musician. Having a sibling on the spectrum always piques my interest in literary representations, and I believe Russell does well here. Children of God is not, in my mind, nearly as good as The Sparrow, but it’s a worthy sequel and it doesn’t quite hit you as hard in the soul. A solid 3.5 stars for me.