- File Size: 8020 KB
- Print Length: 429 pages
- Publisher: Viking (April 21, 2020)
- Publication Date: April 21, 2020
- Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07YRTC6WV
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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“I kept having to close this novel and breathe deeply, again and again. A radical reimagining of the New Testament that reflects on women's longing and silencing and awakening, it is a true masterpiece.” —Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed
“[Kidd’s] painstaking research and artful crafting of setting and character ensures that The Book of Longings is not just an extraordinary novel, but one with lasting power . . . [her] brilliance shines through on so many levels, but not the least in her masterful, reverential approach to capturing Jesus of Nazareth as a fully human young man . . . [The Book of Longings] is an epic masterpiece that is a triumph of insight and storytelling.” —Associated Press
“Well-researched and boldly plotted, this masterful novel brings a lovely character to life.” —People
“Kidd’s bold narrative revisionism allows her protagonist to be in every respect the equal of her husband while posing this question: How would Western culture be different if men and women had grown in appreciation of each other’s spirit? It’s not such a leap—the gospels portray Jesus gently championing women.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] book-club-friendly novel . . . Ana’s gentle husband is Jesus of Nazareth. Her cherished big brother is Judas, Jesus’s firebrand friend. These guys, so familiar, so human, are the hook that draws us in. What keeps us there, though, is the vividness of the world that Kidd conjures, peopling it with boldface names from the New Testament and freshly invented characters she imagines just as fully — Ana, our fictional narrator, principal among them.” —The Boston Globe
“Sue Monk Kidd brings to life a spirited, and spiritually aware, young woman who must come to terms with her own heartfelt desires and ambitions . . . Other novelists have imagined the human side of Jesus, and some have envisioned him as married. But no other writer has fleshed out a partner who can stand on her own, who is intellectually and spiritually well matched with Jesus . . . Kidd’s research into first-century Jewish life, along with her vivid descriptions of the villages and terrain, make Ana’s story come alive.” —Christian Science Monitor
“For fans of historical novels, particularly [...] The Red Tent, or, more recently, Naamah . . . Kidd uses her unexpected narrator to reveal new perspectives on an endlessly parsed era.” —The Washington Post
“Imaginative . . . charts a young woman’s struggle to confront the ways in which society dictates what she can and cannot do.” —TIME
“A master of literary women’s fiction, Kidd always strikes a chord with her strong, feisty female protagonists . . . [The Book of Longings] is written with reverence and strives for historical accuracy . . . it's an engaging story about a young woman defying the odds to make her voice heard, a story that remains relevant today . . . [and] underscore[s] what’s lost when one group—be it one gender, race or religion—gets to write the history for all.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Ana is the vehicle through which we experience the ancient caste system of class, male supremacy and the eternal power of seeking revenge . . . We know where this story is heading all along, but never suspect the unexpected routes . . . The Book of Longings makes you think, and isn’t that often a leap of faith?” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A well-researched novel about a young Jewish woman, who fights against cultural norms to realize the passion and potential inside her.” —Good Morning America
“Sue Monk Kidd skips historians’ 2,000-year-old ‘Did Jesus marry?’ debate, imagines he did, and asks, ‘So what would his wife have been like?’ Inserting Ana into biblical stories, Kidd crafts a surprising, absorbing narrative.” —Real Simple
“The latest from Sue Monk Kidd introduces us to Ana, a courageous, intelligent woman who marries Jesus long before his public ministry begins. Based on meticulous historical research, this is a humanizing look at Jesus the man, as well as an inspiring story of a strong woman living in a society bent on her silence.” —Good Housekeeping
“Despite its setting in ancient Judea, this imaginative novel feels downright contemporary, characterized as it is by one strong-willed woman’s awakening to the indomitable power of her own spirit.” —Esquire
“The Book of Longings demonstrates a welcomed maturity and mastery of historical fiction, even as [Kidd] takes on a retelling of the greatest story ever told . . . she gives nuance and depth to the political realities that made Jesus’ teachings so provocative, and to the patriarchal systems that make characters like Ana’s fabulously fearless aunt Yaltha, her guiding star, so heroic . . . Let it be said that Kidd, like her main character, is indeed ‘a voice.’” —Charleston Post & Courier
“Brilliant . . . It’s the story we all know, but from a new angle, with all the familiar characters brought to vivid life . . . Brava!” —The Daily Mail
“The novel’s evocation of life in Galilee is fascinating, and clever, rebellious Ana is a memorable character.” —The Times (UK)
“A testament to the author’s talent for creating both compelling characters and intriguing story lines . . . Historical details of daily life in the Roman Empire, strong female characters, and richly imagined glimpses into the philosophical communities and libraries in Egypt . . . make this an excellent book club choice . . . Don’t shy away from this historical fiction page-turner thinking that it falls into the inspirational genre. The intensity, bravery, and strength of character of Ana . . . will inspire readers but in a different way: to live authentically and remain true to oneself.” —Library Journal
“The beloved The Secret Life of Bees author spins new gold from one of the greatest stories ever told . . . this is a deeply tender story of two outliers who find each other: a very human Jesus full of fire, yearnings and doubts about being the Messiah, and an even more fiery Ana (Jesus calls her “Little Thunder"), who refuses the traditional role of women to find her own voice, and promote the voices of all women. Provocative, passionate and extremely moving, this is both a love story for the ages and a portrait of a woman way ahead of her biblical times.” —AARP
“Richly imagined . . . Ana’s ambition and strong sense of justice make her a sympathetic character for modern readers . . . In addition to providing a woman-centered version of New Testament events, Kidd’s novel is also a vibrant portrait of a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women’s stories—her own and countless others.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Kidd’s narrative, etched into the emotionally precise and tactile prose of Ana’s first-person voice . . . is not an attempt to rewrite history. Instead it’s an exploration of a triumphant, fierce spirit and the stories she aches to tell. There’s an exuberance to Ana that vibrates off every page, and that is a testament to Kidd’s gifts.” —BookPage
“If you have been waiting for a book like The Red Tent for the past 20 years, this is it. Give to fans of Anita Diamant and Marilynne Robinson.” —Shelf Awareness
“An engrossing, briskly paced story in an appealing voice . . . the message about the importance of kindness and the power of women’s voices should resonate strongly with today’s readers.” —Booklist
“[A] novel that imagines the life of an unforgettable woman, written with reverence to the topic it covers. This intricate story is an epic journey, which fans of The Red Tent will devour.” —PopSugar
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As a Roman Catholic, I have always been taught and have always believed that Jesus was an unmarried, itinerant preacher who saved us all. When I read the premise behind this novel, I couldn’t help but wonder how Kidd would address all of these doctrines of Christianity. I’m so happy to see that she molded tradition with her conjecture very respectfully.
There were points when the scenes brushed Scripture and made the reader go ‘hmmm’. But for the most part, this was fully the story of Ana. Jesus was very much a secondary character of this tale and Kidd did nothing to tarnish the beliefs that Christians hold dear. She simple told a story of a girl who COULD have been the wife of Jesus.
I really loved this book. And honestly? A story that focuses more closely on Jesus’ human side makes me feel even closer to Him and want to study my Scriptures and His teachings even more.
There are so many powerful spiritual women referred to along with the layers of themes of religion, class, family, Colonial expansion, etc. and I’ve just started.
The writing is brilliant.
Feels so incredibly honest for the time period and the narrative on the place and view of women.
The characters and their reflections are deep and wise.
This is the book I’ve always wanted to be written, thank you.
I cannot wait to read the rest.
Well done. You have always been one of my favorite writers.
Nothing about this novel was offensive to traditional views of Jesus. In fact, it seems highly plausible. I appreciate the complete focus on Ana as a whole person, not a hanger-on to Jesus’ ministry.
The writing was faithful to the voice of Ana, thoughtful, clear, practical, and yearning, but it didn’t sing. Perhaps that makes it more realistic.
There is such a strong sense/belief among many today that Mary Magdalene was actually Jesus' wife. I was disappointed that your imagination went in a different direction when you introduced us to Ana. I do believe MM was both Jesus' wife and a strong woman who was not what we've been led to believe by those who rewrote the history.
Even so, I did enjoy the book very much.
Top international reviews
Even if you’re not particularly religious and happy to go with Monk Kidd’s premise about Jesus having a wife named Ana, you’ll almost certainly know enough about the Bible to understand where the narrative will end up. As soon as you learn the name of Ana’s brother, you know what role he’ll ultimately play. And, of course, you know that Ana will be widowed. So, in terms of plot, and building to a denouement, there are really no surprises.
That said, I do feel that the biblical setting is primarily there for context. The real focus of the story is Ana and her determination to have a voice in a society where women are no more than chattels. There is no denying that Monk Kidd is a supremely gifted storyteller, and I found myself quickly sucked into the narrative. I warmed easily to Ana, to her spiritedness, intelligence and compassion, and I cheered her efforts to escape the cage that confined her, to give a voice to women who had suffered and had none. I also enjoyed what little there was of the romance between Ana and Jesus, especially the teasing humor they shared.
For me, though — and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t Monk Kidd’s Intention — the main takeaway from this novel is the power of sisterhood; the ability of women to draw strength from each other and rise above subjugation, abuse and discrimination. It was true 2000 years ago, and it is still true today.
However, I still found it a difficult book to read and really enjoy. It was tedious in places, leapt over large swathes of time, and was definitely too long. I’ll be surprised if it’s received with the same plaudits as ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ and (my favourite) ‘The Invention of Wings’.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
I have no real interest in religion, and I do not know what I believe in. I will deliberately avoid arguments with people about religion, and will try to avoid any mention of it as much as possible. What I only really know of Jesus' story, is what I learned at school (although it feels like everyone is born already knowing this), and from The Da Vinci Code , despite my gran's futile attempts to send me bibles for my birthdays/Christmases. So I was apprehensive approaching this book. I really enjoyed The Secret Life Of Bees , but having recently read The Invention Of Wings , I wasn't so keen on that book.
I did find myself getting into this book, despite my apprehension, and it wasn't as strictly of its time, as I was expecting. I was fully expecting the language to be hard to read, but it actually reads quite modern, without any slang obviously. I also really found myself liking the character of Ana, Jesus' fictional wife. We find her at 14, desperately rebelling against her father when she's betrothed against her wishes to a widower. She fights against being a woman of her time, when every decision is made for her, when all she wants to do is write, and she will do this in anyway possible.
A chance meeting with a young Jesus shapes the rest of her life, and if you know some of the names surrounding the story of Jesus, you'll recognise one straight away in Ana's family.
I did find that Jesus was written as a bit of a heartthrob by Sue, and despite Ana being disgusted when she's told she will be a concubine (with a twist of her nipple) to Herod Antipas, there are no paragraphs dedicated to their sex life during their married years. The following paragraph did show how times have changed in regards to marriage:
"We were to marry that same day when the sun set, but without ceremony. There would be no procession. No virgins raising their oil lamps and calling out for the groom. No singing, no feasting. By law, a marriage was the act of a sexual union, nothing more and nothing less. We would become husband and wife in the solitude of each other's arms."
Jesus is more of a secondary character, with Ana being the main focus of the book, and I would say the book only gets dragged into religious themes when he's around. There's a huge chunk about three-quarters of the way through, where he disappears and at the beginning as well. But I'm kind of thankful that Sue decided not to make the main focus Jesus, as you get more of an idea of the time through Ana's eyes.
AS Sue mentions in her author's note, there is no record of Jesus for 18 years, until the age of 30, and she has largely based her fictional ideas of his life, in this period, up until the crucifixion. She has twisted some known events around in time, to fit with her storyline. I knew the book would end with the crucifixion, but I wasn't sure if the author would be brave enough to go down that route with Jesus, or take the coward's way out, and wrap it up. You do get the full description of what happened, and I could hear the thumping of nails through skin, bone and wood. Mary Magadalene/Magdala also appears at this point, with a slight hint of jealousy from Ana. The book doesn't deal with the resurrection, instead following Ana to later in life.
The story could have been somewhat shorter, I reckon at least 50=75 pages. Huge swathes of time are covered in a matter of pages, and at one point, we discover it's 6 years after their marriage. I was quite shocked at this, as there's no real mention of passing time, and you get lulled into the story of the book.
While I wouldn't say that this was an overly enjoyable book, it was a good read, that I zipped through during two quiet shifts at work. You could be dragged into discussions/arguments if you're seen reading this (my gran probably would not approve), so if you want to avoid that, do not tell people what the book is about. The title is alluded to a great many times during the book, including Ana's longing for freedom and for Jesus, amongst other things. I wouldn't say this was necessarily a recommendation, unless you like her other books or are interested in seeing a moment in history through a woman's eyes.
As for the book itself, it is honestly so beautifully written that at times I stopped to read things aloud. I've never read this author before, although I have heard of her other books, so this was a really pleasant surprise. The writing is as powerful as it is beautiful and some of it echoed so strongly within me that I was still thinking of it many days later. Despite knowing what was coming (anyone who has heard of Jesus knows how his story ends) it still hit me like a sucker punch and I cried.
That was an interesting aspect of the book for me - I'm not at all religious but I was raised in a Christian household so I know a lot of the parables and bible stories. It was fascinating to recognise some of them happening in the story, woven seamlessly into the plot, like the tale of the good Samaritan. They're not mentioned again but if you know them and recognise them it adds a whole other level of foreshadowing to the story.
On a deeper level it was so thought provoking about issues that are still relevant today - feminism and women in education and the questions we all ask ourselves about what it is we actually really want in life as well as how much we are prepared to sacrifice for love.
I think that was one of the best managed aspects of the book - the characters were so relatable and human. Ana, the protagonist, is mostly kind and inquisitive and likeable but several times demonstrates prejudice and racism - the flaws of her time and upbringing. None of them are perfect. Even Jesus is so raw and human...his concerns about paying the bills and how he is torn between yearning for fatherhood and being driven to follow the call of god are conflicts that on some level we can all relate to.
My partner and I spent many hours talking about the book and diverging off into history and the church and reflections about how much has changed but how much remains the same. He hasn't read it yet but I suspect he will as I have recommended it in the highest possible terms.
I cannot speak highly enough of the impeccable research the author has done. The whole book is so richly detailed and full of information that it's just extraordinary.
I'd like to finish by reiterating how beautifully this book is written. It's honestly some of the most beautiful writing I've read in a very long time. I will be recommending it to several people I know and I plan to read other works by this author.
The main thrust of the story though is not Jesus and his life, it is about Ana and her life. From daughter of a senior official for Herod Antipas through betrothal, marriage, loss and fear how her life develops in a time when women were seen as a man's chattels. Ana has a strong, clear voice that draws the reader in and I found myself reluctant to put the book down. I am reluctant to talk too much about the plot as it unfolds so organically on the page that to mention more than the bare bones I feel spoils the adventure for another.
The historical research feels impeccable and the realisation of Nazareth, Jerusalem and Alexandria come alive on the page. The sights, the sounds, the smells they are all evoked by the text and the author really pulls you back to this time. The language used is very much now which makes it completely accessible and I was relieved that there was little in the way of trying to replicate the sentence and speech patterns of the Before Common Era peoples. Whilst some may prefer this I find that it provides a disconnect as you spend much of your time trying to parse the words in to a format which makes sense to the reader and for fiction is wholly (in my opinion) unnecessary.
I was not prepared to be so swept up in this novel and to enjoy reading what could be such a tragic story. There is an underlying message of hope in Ana's tale that seeps off the page and catches the reader unawares. If you know your New Testament then many of the background events feel familiar (I was educated at a Convent school so did find myself playing "spot the link" quite frequently) and it also gives a good explanation of Judaic custom that is still followed by some branches of the religion to this day (eg., the Mikvah). Don't be fooled though whilst there is a lot about Religion in this book first and foremost this is Ana's story and from the moment she first daubs in her prayer bowl she gets her most heartfelt desire; to be a Voice.
I can see how this book of fiction could be seen as being divisive and how some may find it shocking and maybe even blasphemous. For me it is neither of those things; it is a story told with passion, empathy and a deep understanding of people.
THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED VIA AMAZON.CO.UK.
Jesus is very much a secondary character in the book; this is Ana’s story and her voice is engaging and intelligent (if perhaps a little too modern at times) and we learn about what happens to Jesus through her accounts. I’m not religious so I didn’t approach this book with any pre-conceived ideas about Jesus and what was or was not acceptable to say about his life. I just enjoyed the story.
Reading this book is really hard work and I'm going to go against most of the reviews so far in saying that I really didn't like it.
The story was very slow and the language never felt natural for the period. Ana is interesting but didn't fit into her time. The names were difficult to grabble with and it takes time until they stop overpowering the story.
It got better towards the end but I was losing interest by then
Containing a wealth of strong, well rounded female characters, and an interesting attention to historical detail - I found myself swept away by the story of Ana; her bravery, her love and grief for her husband, and her words. Quite simply, I loved this novel and would highly recommend it.
This is a long book which outstayed its welcome with me: slow pace and we know the ending! I also can't get on with the kind of writing which tries to articulate emotion with lots of shuddering, shrieking and wailing in the body ("the wail slapped like waves against the inside of my skull").
Not a book for me but do read all the positive reviews for a different take.
I appreciate how she handles religious sensibilities. I don’t find anything that anyone could find offensive in it. Maybe she works a bit too hard to include the requisite amount of biblical references and yet she leaves out other parts of the gospel that could easily have enriched the story. The whole Calvary part seems very rushed and unconvincing. Well worth reading but not perfect.
I admit it took me a while to get into the story, the style of writing is quite modern for the time which I wasnt expecting and it initially felt inauthentic, the use of curse words in the first few pages jarred with me but I quickly became immersed in it, fascinated by the cast of strong and multifaceted characters. If you enjoy stories about strong women then this is one to read.
I found it to be persuasive and well researched, written in a style one finds in most modern novels depicting ancient world settings; it is flowing, reverential of the period but not attempting to emulate the dialogue of the times (or use faux-biblical forms as, say, “Ben Hur” or earlier novels of the genre).
As a personal narrative, it is naturally told from a woman's point of view; in this respect it serves to highlight how women's voices have been stifled and written out of history; this is the main thrust of the novel (regardless of it's subject matter) and it is therefore a thoroughly contemporary piece of work.
I found it an immersive, evocative, thoughtful and well-paced read – harrowing in places (as one would expect) but ultimately an affirming tale.
I'm very surprised at some of the negative ratings and reviews this has received – I was most impressed by it and am happy to recommend it as a fine work of historical fiction.