The Book of Longings (Sue Monk Kidd)

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You have probably been reading a lot these past few weeks. If you are looking for a new book, I want to recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s new book. Our church book club read Kidd’s The Invention of Wings a couple years ago, and you probably read The Secret Life of Bees even before that. So, it was with great anticipation that I ordered her latest just-off-the-press book. It is called The Book of Longings (Viking, 2020). I am including the publisher’s description below.

When I first started the book, I was not sure that I would like it, even though I’m a big Sue Monk Kidd fan. Then, I read the Author’s Notes at the end of the book. Kidd started with the question, “What if Jesus had been married?” The story is told from the viewpoint of Ana, the woman who married Jesus. Keep in mind that this is a book of fiction, not theology. At the same time, there is nothing in the story that contradicts what we know about Jesus from the gospels and the history of the time. The author just asks us to imagine the parts of Jesus’ life that are not detailed in the gospels.

I found the story compelling and could not put the book down. However, I had to put the brakes on toward the end because I knew what was coming. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note. The book might encourage you to read the Scriptures with a lively imagination, asking “What if?” about many of the characters. At least, it did for me.

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The publisher’s description:

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.

This may not be a book for everyone. I would love to hear your reactions to the story. May we all find that each of us has a voice.


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