So I just finished The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. The Book of Longings was my May book of the month choice and after reading the little description I knew I had to read it. The premise of the book is historical fiction, that not only gives Jesus a wife but a feminist wife. (And yes, Jesus as in the bible.) Based on that premises alone I was super into the idea of the book and I knew that I had to read it. As a person who has taken more theology classes than I can count, and more than most people will ever or have ever taken in their life, any type of storyline involving the bible immediately draws my interest because of my educational past.
With that, let's jump into The Book of Longings.
As mentioned, The Book of Longings tells the story of Jesus's feminist wife a woman named Ana. Ana comes from a wealthy Jewish family and of course with Judea being under Roman rule during that historical period comes with a lot of rules, a lot of customs, and a lot of conflict. Plus the author's interesting choice to make Judas, Ana's adopted brother. Nonetheless, Ana wants to be a scholar and has a talent for reading and writing, however as a woman this is a gift and path that she can't really cultivate. Of course things never go according to what she wants...
That is the most that I will say about that without getting to much into the story and giving bunches of it away. So Let's start with what I liked about the book.
I really enjoyed Ana's story. I liked the ways in which she cared for and related to other characters, especially her Aunt and Tabitha. The most interesting part about the relationship between Ana and her Aunt is the way that it parallels other relationships of women in the bible. Something that I believe was a purposeful choice of the author. I enjoyed her characterization as well. I liked that she was smart, cunning, and sly. That she was a combination of good and bad which made her seem like a well fleshed out character who is more like a real person. I did like that, in the end, she gets to live out her life the way she wanted and sees fit in Alexandria.
What I didn't like all involves the same overarching theme and then one small compliant. The same overarching theme that I didn't like was that Ana is not around for major new testament moments of Jesus's teachings. Ana and Jesus are separated for most of what would be the new testament, which is a little bit weird to me. Part of me is like why make such a big deal of having this character being married to Jesus, but then keep her out of major parts of his story just to have her kind of pop back just in the nick of time for the crucifixion and then have her miss the resurrection? I thought it was a weird choice for the author to make, but however I get it as I think it may have been because it's Ana's story and having her not being around for these major moments really solidifies that it's Ana's story.
The other thing that I didn't like about the book was the fact that I found Ana to be annoying in various parts of the book. Enough so that I had to take a few breaks while reading the novel. So many times as I was reading the novel, I thought to myself Really, Really, this is what you are going to do? Or I can't believe this b**tch.
I can't finish this review without talking about the relationship between Ana and Jesus. Obviously this is what makes the book the book. This is what causes the interests, the anger the controversy. And I don't say that to be dramatic I have seen reviews on Goodreads calling this book blasphemy. Anywho, I loved the relationship between Jesus and Ana. The way that the writer wrote it showed the depth and ways the characters loved each other. I enjoyed the way that they loved each other so much and loved each other enough to support one another following their "longings" and not letting others impact that. I would argue that the way the relationship is portrayed is a great example of a healthy relationship and shows the reader elements of what a healthy relationship should be. What more could you ask from a book?
Zuhri's Final Thoughts
Star Rating : 3.8 I know it's a weird rating. But this book is not quite a 4 star for me, but is definitely above a 3.5 for me. So 3.8 is the way to go.
Reading Scenario: I think that this book would be good for any reading scenario that takes place over time. I believe that this is not the kind of book that you can read it one sitting its totally somethingt that takes some time to go through and process. This book does take a little bit more brainpower to get through.
Book Club Recommendation: Yes. This is a great book club choice. It has just enough pizzaz and controversy to create all sorts of lively discussion with book club members.