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.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.