“An extraordinary novel . . . a triumph of insight and storytelling.” —Associated Press
“A true masterpiece.” —Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed
An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings
In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.
Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana's pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome's occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.
Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus's life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable 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. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl, The latest from Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) proposes an audacious premise: Jesus of Nazareth was married, and his wife was a writer. In a richly imagined first-person narrative, Ana, the only daughter of Herod's chief scribe, Matthias, tells of her origins as a writer and her life with Jesus. As a child in Sepphoris, Ana recounts, Matthias allowed her to pursue scholarly interests, and she was drawn toward documenting the stories of Biblical matriarchs ("Listening to the rabbis, one would've thought the only figures worth mentioning... were . When I was finally able to read the Scriptures for myself, I discovered (behold!) there were women"). Once Ana turns 15, however, she is forced to hide away her parchments and scrolls and, despite her protests, her parents arrange for her betrothal to the much older Nathaniel ben Hananiah. Overcome with despair while meeting Nathaniel for the first time in a marketplace, she grows faint and falls. A young bearded man helps her up, causing her to feel an "odd smelting" in her thighs. , After Nathaniel suddenly dies from an illness, Ana meets Jesus, the man from the marketplace, and the two bond over their status as outcasts Ana as a "widow" and Jesus as a child of dubious parentage. In a particularly tender section filled with domestic details of their early marriage, Kidd imagines the young couple's mutually supportive partnership even as Jesus's call to ministry grows stronger. , Kidd deemphasizes the New Testament's telling of Jesus's miraculous deeds and divinity, instead positioning his early faithfulness and ministry not to mention events that will ultimately take his life as essentially political in nature. Jesus's grassroots gospel of radical acceptance and love is contrasted with the violent revolution espoused by Ana's adopted brother, Judas, with the two resistance movements presented as competing alternatives to the repressive Roman power over Israel. Historic and biblical details are balanced by lively dialogue and debates between characters about matters of faith and action. , Ana's ambition and strong sense of justice make her a sympathetic character for modern readers, even if her rebellion against her parents may seem somewhat anachronistic for a woman of her time. Throughout the joys of her marriage and the trials of this long separation and its aftermath, Ana returns repeatedly to the hopeful words of her aunt and mentor, Yaltha: "Return to your longing. It will teach you everything." In an afterword, Kidd offers insights into her research and makes the argument that Jesus's marriage despite later church assumptions and teachings was not only possible but likely. , In addition to providing a woman-centered version of New Testament events, Kidd's novel is also a vibrant portrait of a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women's stories her own and countless others. , Norah Piehl is the executive director of the Boston Book Festival.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I found myself enthralled with the story and even more curious where fact met fiction. The historical aspect woven into the story is completing and believable whether there is truth or not. Another standing ovation for the author.
The Book of Longings
I didn’t know this book’s topic or premise when I bought and downloaded it. At first, I thought I might not even read it once I realized it was about Jesus and a (maybe) fictional wife.
But, am I ever enriched from reading this.
I recommend it highly and widely.
It is, simply, amazing.
A very special book
Emotional, moving, and erudite—this book stayed with me for days after finishing it.