I started reading “The Book of Longings” way back in January and was a little wary of it. But I had heard good reviews about this book and thought I would see for myself. I think the author wrote it well and made it believable, which I appreciated. Told from the perspective of Ana, a young woman with the gift of writing, this book helps give a glimpse of what life was like during Jesus’s time.
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.”
“Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, Ana 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.“
My Verdict: “The Book of Longings“ by Sue Monk Kidd is Worth Reading
First, I’ll give the high points. I really liked how author Sue Monk Kidd wrote the story. The way the book was written it doesn’t come across as completely preposterous that Jesus would have a wife. I really liked the character Ana and how she was not a perfect person. She had her own issues and a turbulent family life. Her father is a head scribe for Herod Antipas and seeks to be in his favor. They are a wealthier family with servants. Although her father is seen as a bit of a villain in the book, he taught Ana to write, which is forbidden for women. Ana is particularly close to her aunt Yaltha who encourages her to keep writing.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Ana is eventually ostrasized by the community and almost gets stoned because of it. But Jesus comes to her rescue, claiming her as his betrothed. At this time, Jesus is in his 20s and has not started his ministry. As I read the book, I kept wondering what was going to happen once he turned 30. This is where the book disappointed me. Ana was not present at all during Jesus’ ministry, as she was in Egypt with her aunt. I don’t want to give the reason why, but Ana does not see Jesus until the day of his crucifixion, totally perplexed as to what was going on while she was away. I’m sure the author was trying to account for the Bible not mentioning Jesus having a wife, but to me, this is a historical fiction story and I would have liked for Ana to have known about her husband and what he was doing. To Ana, Jesus is her loving husband, not a Savior or Messiah.
Ultimately, this book is memorable but not one I could reread. I thought the plot dragged on a bit at times and honestly think this book could have been about anyone and that the “wife of Jesus” aspect was an attention grab. Ana’s time with Jesus is rather short compared to all the other aspects of the book, so I think this book really is more about a woman who knew Jesus. Maybe I’m being too harsh here! Of course, these are just my opinions!
Books Similar to this One
If you’re unsure whether to pick up this book, you might enjoy it if you have read these similar novels: “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Art of Mending” by Elizabeth Berg, or “The Solace of Leaving Early” by Haven Kimmel. Additionally, Sue Monk Kidd has written some other books you might be more familiar with like “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Mermaid Chair.”
As always, thanks so much for reading. Let me know what you thought of this book if you’ve read it! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you have a book recommendation for me, please let me know! I am always interested in reading more books especially from authors I have not read before.