A book club friend had mentioned this book to me a few years ago. I take forever to get around to these things, and so only recently picked it up. I had absolutely no idea what the plot entailed (or what genre it even was!) and was entirely surprised to discover this fascinating tale.
In The Sparrow, A radio transmission is discovered from another planet and a group of Jesuits decide to embark on a mission to meet and explore the new world of Rakhat. The narration jumps between the aftermath of the mission, where Fr. Sandoz is the sole survivor and destroyed both physically and emotionally, and to the beginning of events and how everything unfolded.
So aside from these points I found it a fun choice. It was an intriguing read and Russell's imagination and ability to build up a society with multiple sentient beings was superb. I appreciated that the main characters were seeking to be good people, regardless of religion, and found the Fr. General's care of Fr. Sandoz very pastoral--unwilling to allow a man in his care to be left behind, even in the face of scandal.
Do note: There is both rape and some elements of violence.