Book of Longings – Book Review

The Book of Longings, a novel by Sue Monk Kidd, is a historical fiction that is set is Biblical times. I debated writing about this book, since I am so emphatic about not wanting to push religious ideas on others, but I realized this book is not about religion so much as it covers a possible backstory. The theme behind the book is “If Jesus had a wife” (which is not actually specified one way or another in the Bible). And her history is fascinating.
I reserved this book from the library because I have so enjoyed other novels written by Sue Monk Kidd, but the subject matter was a total surprise to me, though a very pleasant one.
This well-researched book goes into the culture of that time, how women’s gifts were so totally disregarded, and goes on to give a fictional account of Ana, a woman who had the advantage of education, and is so determined and so spirited that she finds her voice despite all the forces conspiring against that. From a very early age, she determines to write the stories of various women in the Old Testament, as she sees them being mostly ignored in the literature of that time. Ana finds herself seeking out supportive friends and allies, as well as becoming an ally to others. She finds strength despite all the forces lined up against her in a time when women could not inherit property, had no voice in major decisions, and were told a woman’s function was to procreate.
The book is of course full of twists and turns. Ana is raised in financially privileged circumstances, by parents whose main concern is how things appear to others and how to achieve maximum wealth and power. Her adopted older brother Judas also has been an influence.
Ana, the protagonist, prays very early on to have a voice. Immediately afterword, her parents pledge her to a man she despises. In the course of time, though, she winds up married to Jesus. And no, I won’t tell you any more about that, because it would ruin the reading of the book.
Even though we all know how Jesus’ life ended so tragically, the twists and turns in Ana’s life and the focus on her as a separate, unique, and very curious intellectual individual are the focus of this book—including, of course, her part in Jesus’ life.

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