We've made it to S! As a Sara, this letter has always been a favorite. So it should be no surprize that I had a very hard time picking just one story for this letter. I mean, just off the top of my head I can think of at least five (The Saint, Serenity, Stranger than Fiction, The Solitaire Mystery, and The Secrets of Jin-shei). So which story makes the cut for being my favorite story that starts with S...
Those who know me well aren't shocked or surprized or even stumped at this choice. It's one of my top five novels ever.
Written by Mary Doria Russell (who is a very kind woman who answered my emails with speed and grace and smiles), this story is about Jesuits traveling to another planet, to make the first intergalactic contact with another species. I know, sounds awesome, right? Of course it does, because it is!
Our main character is Emilio Sandoz, a priest who loves God in theory (head-love) but hasn't ever really fallen into heart-love with Him. Emilio is perhaps my favorite character ever--he is smart, witty, feisty, fragile, and oh-so-human. And in this story, as he and his companions (who are just as fantastically written) travel to Rakhat, a planet from which a radio signal of music has been received.
We follow Sandoz (another S!), along with Anne and George Edwards, Jimmy Quinn, Sophia Mendez, and a handful of other priests, as they make the discovery, put forth the crazy idea of traveling across space to visit the planet, their trip, and finally, their arrival on the planet. And what happens on planet, and mostly what happens to Emilio after he has returned to Earth, alone.
Sounds like a nice sci-fi, right? It is. But it is so much more. It's about the human condition and the heart of who we are. It's about how we mean no harm and yet can cause the destruction of an entire world in the name of friendship. It's about how loving God isn't roses and clouds and angels playing harps--but it's about grit and brokenness and understanding that a life given over to God is His and His alone to use as he see fit.
I do highly recommend getting both this one and the sequel (which is vital to read if you want the complete picture). The writing is beautiful (I both praise and curse Russell in the same breath, because she can make me care so much and yet make me realize I have so far to go as a writer), and the story is epic and personal at the same time.
Please note, for my younger friends, this book has very frank conversations about adult themes, and for my sensitive readers, it deals with some rather horrific topics. If you are wondering if you can stomach it, just send me a message and I can help you decide.
For CPers interested--check with me or Twinkie first. This is the sort of story that can do more damage than good if you aren't ready for it, and since it is SO beautiful, I don't want it to hurt a single one of you!