The title of The Sparrow comes from Matthew 10:29. “Not even a sparrow can fall without your Father knowing it.” That text is often quoted to people in times of crisis. It’s meant to be comforting. God knows your troubles. God’s eye is on the sparrow.
The problem is, the sparrow still falls. And that’s the essence of theodicy: the religious conundrum that arises from the presence of evil in a moral universe ruled by an omnipotent, compassionate God.
Stony Brook professor Andrew Flescher has just won the prestigious PROSE award for his book Moral Evil in which The Sparrow is quoted at length, with Emilio Sandoz’s theological crisis framing Chapter 2, on theodicy. Professor Flescher was reportedly urged to drop all reference to The Sparrow because his publisher didn’t think the novel was well-known. (This is publisher code for, “Well, I never read it.”) Bless his heart, Flescher insisted that The Sparrow stay in and I’m grateful.
Reviews of his book are stellar and the PROSE award validates them. I just ordered a copy of Moral Evil and was able to read Chapter Two online. Flescher nailed the moral and religious elements of my novel. His own writing is beautifully lucid and mercifully devoid of academic obscurantism.
Universities, colleges and even high schools assign The Sparrow in a variety of courses. Moral Evil would make a good companion text, drawing readers beyond the narrative and into the deep framework of philosophy it draws on.
Thanks to Professor Roger Thompson for the heads-up!