Year published: 1996
Genre: Science fiction
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, is a science fiction novel, of the "first contact" genre - that is, it tells what happens when we meet aliens for the first time.
This is a fairly common theme in SF, but usually the aliens are poorly drawn; even when well drawn, they tend to be either vastly superior to us (see e.g. Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End) or else either so totally alien that they are incomprehensible, or stereotyped versions of us (e.g. in Larry Niven's excellent novels, the Kzinti are like humans, but much much more aggressive, and the Puppeteers like humans, only much more timid).
In The Sparrow, the aliens are at approximately the same level as we humans, but are different in some very interesting ways; since discovering those ways is a large part of the novel, I will not go further here.In addition, the novel is about the nature of faith, the nature of love, and what it means to be civilized.
One caveat - do not read the last 50 pages while eating.
In all, strongly recommended.