The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd was recommended to me by my wonderful co-worker, Darcy . . . and I am so glad that she suggested it!! I’m not sure I would have picked it up to read on my own, and I truly enjoyed this novel.
The setting of The Book of Longings moves from Galilee to Alexandria and back again, during the time of Jesus. I am not giving away any of the plot by telling you that this historical fiction work imagines a young girl named Ana, as being Jesus’ wife. Ana is a young girl from a wealthy family whose passion is to write down her thoughts and stories and those of other women of her day. She rails against the cultural restraints that apply to women in her time – often bringing difficulties upon herself. (Many times, I feared for Ana’s well-being because her beliefs and actions made powerful men very angry.) Ana eventually becomes the wife of Jesus and lives with his family in Nazareth. Familiar Biblical characters appear throughout the book – Mary/the mother of Jesus, Mary/Martha/Lazarus, Judas, John the Baptist, Herod and others.
I found the story so fascinating and well-written – I didn’t feel that it contradicted any of the Christian teachings of the Bible. Monk was very careful to research all of the facts presented in the Bible and kept her story true to the Gospel. The humanity and kindness of Jesus are apparent throughout the book. (I have read that some feel this book is controversial, but I was not offended by it in any way.) The details of everyday life for women in the ancient times are explored so wonderfully by Monk! This book brings up many discussion points for readers, so would be great for a book club – or just for people who are interested in a fictional story based on women that might have been contemporaries of Jesus. (Darcy said that the audiobook is excellent, if the ancient names and pronunciations are a stumbling block for you.)
Here is a link to a short interview with Sue Monk Kidd about how she came to write The Book of Longings: