The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is a fictional story about Ana, the wife of Jesus. I was slightly hesitant to read this book because I half expected it to be heavy on religion. I was pleasantly surprised that Kidd treated Jesus as a historical figure and did not delve too much in the Biblical aspect. Ana is a woman after my own heart. From a young age she questions the expectations and rules that are forced on her as a young woman and decided to forge her own path, despite what her family and society expected of her. Ana has a passion for writing, but lives in an environment where women are expected to be wives and mothers with zero aspirations other than pleasing their husbands and raising their children. Ana defies her culture's arbitrary rules and creates her own path in life.
I really enjoyed how Kidd depicted Jesus as more of a religious historical figure, rather than regurgitating stories from the Bible. The Book of Longings focuses on Jesus as a young man, husband, lover, brother, and son. Kidd's writing is atmospheric and rich. As I read, I felt like I could hear the goats bleating and the tall grasses swaying in the wind, smell the fragrant olive oil and taste the local spices. Ana came alive with her writing and I was wrapped up in her coming of age story.
I highly recommend reading the author's note. Kidd goes into great detail on what inspired this book and the steps she took to make it as historically accurate as she could. What stood out to me the most was how Ana essentially manifested herself to Kidd. Kidd makes the comment that it is not that far out there to imagine that Jesus had a wife and, if that is the case, how she is the most silenced woman in history. How profound is that statement?!
For those of you on the fence about reading this book because you aren't very religious, don't be. I grew up in a very conservative midwestern Christian household, attended K-5 schooling through my families church, and had religion spoon fed to me as a child. The church edited what I read (they literally would not allow Harry Potter in the school library and took a sharpie to edit books that even referenced magic,) told me my friends in public school were going to hell because they weren't a member of our church, and shamed me in unimaginable ways. Because of that, I am a bit turned off from organized religion and even I enjoyed this book. All of my old memories and feelings aside, I was captured by Kidd's writing and adored Ana's story.