The Book of Longings (2020)

by Sue Monk Kidd

Not only is The Book of Longings based on the intriguing premise that Jesus had a wife, the book also stars the wife.

Ana is fictional, not a character from the Bible. She is the daughter of Herod Antipasís head scribe and is accustomed to advantages unavailable to most girls of her time, including literacy. Writing the stories of unsung women is her calling.

At age 14 Ana meets Jesus in a marketplace and is instantly drawn to him. When the older man to whom her parents betrothed her dies, Ana marries Jesus and moves into his home in Nazareth, where his mother, brother, sister-in-law, and eventually his widowed sister live. For the first time Ana experiences poverty and has to do chores. She is frustrated by the lack of time and supplies to write, her deep longing. After a miscarriage, she decides to use herbs to prevent another pregnancy.

Ana must escape to Egypt to flee Harodís wrath after she warns his wife that heís plotting to kill her. She and Jesus are apart during the years of his ministry, allowing Kidd to sidestep questions about Jesusí miracles and divinity. Kidd said she wanted to stress the humanity of Jesus ó and the novel is Anaís story.

The Book of Longings may appeal more to people interested in history than religion. Kiddís prodigious research is enlightening about life and womenís status in Galilee and the more progressive Alexandria during Jesusí time. The characters are also well drawn. Ana is a high-spirited, intelligent, and free-thinking young woman. Jesus is an unusually tolerant and egalitarian man. Anaís Aunt Yaltha, the other standout, is her mentor and role model, a woman of conviction and courage.

An interesting aspect of the novel is that Judas is Anaís adopted brother, a design that allows Kidd to posit a reason for Judasí betrayal of Jesus.


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