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The Book of Longings Hardcover – 21 April 2020
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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 "We promise you've never read anything like this . . . This work of historical fiction gives a feminist retelling to the stories at the heart of Catholicism, yet stays grounded in research and respect. Even after you finish, you'll be thinking about it for days." --KatieCouric.com "[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." --The 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?" --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.'" --The Post and Courier (Charleston) "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 (London)
"The novel's evocation of life in Galilee is fascinating, and clever, rebellious Ana is a memorable character." --The Times (London) "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 The Magazine "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 twenty 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
About the Author
- Publisher : Viking (21 April 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 052542976X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525429760
- Dimensions : 16.18 x 3.43 x 24.36 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 52,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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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.
Although we have Jesus as a well-known character in this book our main character is Ana, the imagined wife of Jesus. It is widely believed that during the “lost years”, Jesus worked as carpenter in Sepphoris rather than Nazareth and in the book, Ana meets Jesus during this time. We follow Ana, a strong, independent and compelling woman who wants to support the person she loves during the trials of living at that time and how she copes with Jesus’ life choices and what ultimately happens to him.
As with all Sue Monk Kidd’s books, her writing is amazing, she is a truly gifted storyteller. The language and flow draws you in and carries you along the journey. Ana, as a character, was a wonder and a joy; a strong and fierce woman with dreams and goals of her own and her passion shines through on every page. I enjoyed being with Ana and warmed to her easily. Seeing her form relationships and use her brain and her voice in a way that women were not generally allowed or expected to during that time was great and I cheered her on. I also enjoyed what little there was of the romance between Ana and Jesus, especially the teasing humour they shared, it seemed that they were friends at the core.
I think the main theme that stood out for me was sisterhood; the ability of women to draw strength from each other and rise above abuse and discrimination. It was true 2000 years ago, and it is still true today. There are many instances in the book that this was called upon.
Having raved about this book, I have to say that it was not as good as some of Sue Monk Kidd’s other books and I can’t help but compare them. This had her usual style, flow and pacing but there seemed to be some parts that were a bit too long and could have been reduced. Saying that, it was a fantastic read and a great addition to Sue Monk Kidd’s collection.
As she says herself, Christian scriptures are silent on whether Jesus was married.
In this book, Sue Monk Kidd has explored the resulting vacuum or emptiness, not as a negative space that is less than reality, but as a boundless landscape where the largeness of our duality of humanity, feminine and masculine, is blessed and celebrated. Being True to itself, the story does not shy from the barbaric cruelty of which we are capable.
In the end, however, I take great solace from the character of Ana - who expressed and created glimpses of beauty from the infinite largeness inside of her throughout her life; who was true to herself and thereby forged empowering connections with others; who in finding and being her voice through story, shows us what we are truly capable of - if only we have the courage to listen to our True selves.
Sue Monk Kidd - thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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.