Mary Doria Russell’s novels include intricately drawn characters who explore life’s deepest and most troubling questions. She is perhaps best known for her first novel, The Sparrow (1996), and its sequel, Children of God (1998), about human contact with aliens on a space mission organized by Jesuits. Her most recent novel, Dreamers of the Day, released in May, is set in 1921 and concerns the Cairo Peace Conference and the shaping of the modern Middle East. She is at work on a novel set in Dodge City, which she hopes will “solidify her reputation as a literary genre slut.”
Your fiction tackles the big questions, like theodicy, and the big issues, like genocide, the Holocaust and colonialism. Why?
I seem to be drawn to the big picture. I crave understanding. I am hungry to see how the large-scale and small-scale elements of human history and human lives fit together.