Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Book of Longings

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin Random House; 4/21/20
review copy; 432 pages

Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is a recommended historical fiction novel about Ana, the wife of Jesus.

Ana is the only daughter of Matthias, chief scribe to Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee. She wants to be a writer, a scribe, and tell the untold stories of the women. He father has indulged her by providing a tutor and writing supplies, but that changes when, at fifteen, she is betroth to a much older widower. When meeting him for the first time she sees for the first time and is attracted to eighteen-year-old Jesus. Circumstances lead to her arranged marriage falling through and her eventual marriage to Jesus. Ana makes her home with him in Nazareth. Oh, and she is related to Judas.

The novel is divided into sections based on Ana's location at that time. While the quality of the writing is excellent, I was expecting much more from this novel. It starts out slow, but it does get better after this. The history of the region is covered. The most essential fact to note is that this is first and foremost Ana's story and it follows her thoughts, plans, and dreams for her life.

More importantly for me, it embraces a fatal flaw. A flaw that is a pet peeve of mine and the reason I try to avoid most historical fiction is highlighted in The Book of Longings. I cringe whenever characters in a historical time period are accredited with modern perspectives and sensibilities. We are all a product of our time period and even the most innovative and progressive thinker still reflects the society and era in which they live.

In the end, having Ana being the wife of Jesus (which should have been Yeshua or Joshua) felt more like an attention grabbing ploy to sell the book. As I was reading I thought some readers will love this based on the audacity of Ana being the wife of Jesus and on the author's name. Ana could have just as easily married one of the future apostles - or any other random person during this period of history. Characters are either good or bad, with no real subtlety or complexity in their depictions.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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