“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” So begins the new novel from the number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings, an extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny in a time of great despair and great hope.
In her fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.
Their marriage unfolds with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, James and Simon, and their mother, Mary. Here, Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her charismatic adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her indomitable aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter, as well as by other women, including her friend Tabitha, who is sold into slavery after she was raped, and Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. Ana’s impetuous streak occasionally invites danger. When one such foray forces her to flee Nazareth for her safety shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, she makes her way with Yaltha to Alexandria, where she eventually finds refuge and purpose in unexpected surroundings.
Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her.
Have you ever read a book that leaves you completely inarticulate? Because I just did. I read a lot of books that leaves me at a lost for words, but the Book of Longings has left me not only speechless, but also breathless.
I’m going to be frank with you guys- I’m agnostic, so the Book of Longings was originally no where near being in my pile. I was scrolling through Goodreads one day, and someone gave this book a one-star without even reading it because it didn’t follow their religious view, so it peaked my curiosity.
I was skeptical going into this book, worrying it would be more focused on the religion aspect than the synopsis leads you to believe. It came through on Libby three days ago, and you guys- I practically inhaled the book. WOW! I’ve been working on this review the last three days, and yet- I find myself continuously rambling because I still cannot articulate my thoughts.
It is a poignant story that is character-driven and may not be for devout Christians unless you are willing to keep an open mind, reminding yourself it is a work of fiction because it is traditionally believed that Jesus did not marry. While obvious mentions of God, prayers, and biblical stories are present throughout the book, the story primarily focuses on Ana, the wife of human Jesus, an amiable husband who is in the background. Ana is fierce and strong. She speaks her mind and writes her words in a time period that tries to silence women.
What I loved about this book are the women, their resilience, and their friendship. There are definite note of feminism, courage, and perseverance. Ana’s voice is strong and she uses that to make sure other’s stories get told and are heard.
All in all, Kidd did a terrific job balancing the book between biblical stories and weaving in a woman’s voice and determination to stand up for herself and others as well as maintaining equality in her marriage with human- Jesus. It is very clear that Kidd put a lot of research into this novel, and while I am not familiar with all biblical stories, I know they are sprinkled throughout the book.
This is a book I’d highly recommend for anyone willing to step out their comfort zone, regardless of which side you stand on, because you have to have an open mind in order to see all the beauty this book has to offer. It is a book that’ll sit with you for a long time if you’re willing to look at the big picture instead of dissecting every phrase of paragraph, or page.
Title: The Book of Longings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
If you are a BOTM member, do you have any books in mind that might be a contender for the year, because I can see Book of Longings being one! I’d love to hear your thoughts and chit-chat 🙂