This week’s review is The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. One of my favorite ways to rest is by curling up with a good book. Like movies and music, all genres appeal to me, and I give all books a chance to be ‘heard’!
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The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
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If ever there was a historical account of Jesus having a wife, Sue Monk Kidd’s Ana in The Book of Longings would be her. Backed with thorough research into the life of Jesus and the historical events of his time, the author creates an unforgettable story of a young woman with unparalleled determination and longing to be heard.
The story begins in the first century with Ana, daughter of Matthias who is head scribe to the tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Antipas. Ana yearns to spend her days reading and writing in an effort to satisfy her innermost longing – to be a voice for many. As a woman, she is dissuaded from anything academic and is expected to marry, bear children, and merely exist for a husband. This is not what she feels pulled to do and wants to put off marriage as long as possible.
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Her father’s sister, Yaltha, is a welcome presence in their home. Yaltha and Ana have an unexplained bond and her dear aunt sees this fierce determination of spirit in her niece. She introduces Ana to Sophia, the female spirit of God. She tells her about the Book of Longings and how to record her innermost longing in an incantation bowl. Though the reason of how Yaltha came to live with them is unknown, Ana embraces her as both mentor and mother. Ana’s spirit soars with a great ambition to be a scholar, and her aunt encourages it through stories of her former life in Alexandria.
Her spirit is soon crushed after learning of her betrothal to Nathaniel – a man nearly thirty years her senior, and a widower looking to take a wife for the sole reason to get closer to the great tetrarch. Days before she is to move into her new home with her husband, Nathaniel dies from fever and she is free from him. The freedom is short-lived, however. Vicious rumors and lies of her flies about the city and she can no longer walk through it without being spit on, called horrible names, and comes close to a stoning. Saving her life, Jesus intervenes and proposes marriage.
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They live in peace in Jesus’s home in Nazareth with his mother, brothers, and brothers’ wives for a few years. During that time, Ana feels the pull of writing and yearns to record the stories of the women who have been beaten, neglected, and raped. These women deserve to have their stories be heard by all and be documented in history as a testament to their bravery and endurance. Just as Ana sees a longing of spreading the word of God’s Kingdom in Jesus, he sees the longing within her. They have a devotion to one another as well as a devotion to their longing.
As Rome continues to occupy Israel, Ana’s brother, Judas, leads a resistance for the Jewish people to take back their land. Once Judas realizes Jesus is in agreement with him, he persuades Jesus to accompany him in the revolt. Although Jesus agrees with Judas, he wants to do in a peaceful manner and sees this as a chance to spread the love of God’s kingdom to his people.
Ana and Jesus are separated when Ana crosses Herod Antipas and has to flee for her life to the imperial city of Alexandria. During this time, Jesus wants to follow John the Immenser as his disciple spreading humanity and love to others. They spend the next two years apart on separate pilgrimages – hers in Alexandria where more life-altering secrets are revealed and his in the surrounding villages speaking of God’s kingdom.
When they are brought together once again, it is not in the way Ana expects. Now she must learn how to go on without him and how to satisfy that longing inside of her just as her husband did. She is determined to be the voice for all the women who have suffered to be heard through the ages.
The story of Ana is moving in various ways, and not just as the woman married to Jesus. Even before she meets him, she is filled with an intensity that will not be quieted or dissuaded. Her spirit stands on its own and is not one that is backed down by threats. The wrongdoings of humanity fuel her in an attempt to right the wrong. And even though she cannot bring justice to the women in her stories by punishing the wrongdoers, she brings justice in her own way – through the power of her words.
My review cannot do this story justice. There’s no way to sum up this great tale of Ana and rightfully recapture her strength and perseverance. Keep in mind that this was a time when women were barely seen let alone be heard. They were viewed as merely a part of the background and played no part in life aside from child-rearing and tending to their men. Sue Monk Kidd shows how untrue this falsity really is, and peels away the cliched belief to reveal the beauty and brazen spirit of all women.
The Book of Longings Book Club with Sue Monk Kidd
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Book Ratings and Reviews
Each book I review is based on my opinion. This does not mean you will agree with the review or love/like/dislike the book, too. There’s a quote that says, “No two persons ever read the same book” by Edmund Wilson, and it’s quite true!
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