Ana is born in Galilee at a time when women are seen as possessions, only leaving their fathers’ homes to marry. Ana longs to control her destiny. Taught to read despite her mother’s misgivings, she wants to be a writer and to find her
own voice. A voice that will speak for the silenced women around her.
Betrothed to an elderly widower, Ana almost despairs. But an encounter with a charismatic young carpenter in Nazareth awakens new longings in her, and a different future opens up. Yet this is not a simple love story. Ana’s journey will bring both joy and tragedy, but it will also be enriched by the female friendships she makes along the way.
The Book of Longings is an exquisite tale of dreams and desire, and of the power of women to change the world.
I read the afterword at the end of the novel just to get an idea of the authors thoughts and what made her decide to write about a fictional wife of Jesus. It seemed it took her sometime to put pen to paper, declaring ‘I couldn’t muster quite enough audacity’
When Kidd finally did take that leap it was in my opinion a brave one, to challenge, even though fictitious, the possibility that Jesus had a wife. In The Book Of Longings her name was Ana, a beautiful, intelligent, educated daughter of Herod’s head scribe. She was the opposite of women of her time, keen to marry for love not to merge and increase the status and wealth of a family, and from the start she was a veritable fire ball, opinionated, stubborn, determined and brave.
From their first accidental meeting in a crowded market, you knew it was fate, their destiny to be together, but Kidd didn’t make that journey easy and the heartache and hardships were almost a training ground for what was to come.
Their eventual marriage was one based on pure love, a love that endured during the many years of trouble and separation. Kidd used Ana’a eyes to tell the story of Jesus as we know it but also the consequences it had for his family, the added danger it placed Ana in. It was an extremely clever technique one that made me view those bible stories I had read a little differently. I saw Jesus as a normal man, one who had his own desires but wasn’t afraid to follow his inner voice, to run into danger for a greater cause.
Did I think he was selfish? In some ways yes, when you thought about his mother, and more importantly his wife, but that was where it stopped, as Kidd gave Ana her own purpose, her own cause. She was there to support Jesus, to trail blaze for other women within society, to stand up to the inherent brutality present with men. Her writings were her outlet, a historical text for the future, to the point I did wonder if Kidd was suggesting that maybe she was part author of the New Testament. I may be totally and utterly wrong but wouldn’t it be wonderful to think a woman had a hand in its creation, and it was a thought I clung to throughout the second half of the novel.
One thing that did stand out, was the vividness of Kidd’s narrative, the brilliant portrayal of the Romans and the Jews, the society they lived in and the tensions and rivalries that existed. It was a veritable maelstrom of actions and events that culminated in the inevitable ending, and the ensuing scenes were hugely poignant and emotional.
What endured above all was Ana, her capacity for love and forgiveness, her fight to read, to write, to be treated as an equal, a shining beacon of light and hope.
The Book Of Longings, was never the novel you expected, and all credit and heaps of admiration to Sue Monk Kidd for having the audacity to put pen to paper, to challenge the reader, and dare to create an alternative to a story we all grew up and know so well.
I would like to thank Tinder Press for a copy of The Book Of Longings to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, one of the most beloved novels of the 21st century. It spent 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. It was long-listed for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and made into a film starring Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. Sue’s subsequent novels,
The Mermaid Chair, The Invention of Wings and now The Book of Longings, were all New York Times bestsellers.
Sue is also the author of several non-fiction books including the New York Times bestseller Travelling with Pomegranates, co-written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue lives in Florida.