The Book of Longings: A Novel

· Sold by Penguin
20 reviews

About this ebook

“An extraordinary novel . . . a triumph of insight and storytelling.” —Associated Press

A true masterpiece.” —Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed

An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.

Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana's pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome's occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.

Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus's life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable account of one woman's bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.

Ratings and reviews

20 reviews
jaclyn wolinski
September 26, 2023
This book took my mind to a place I didn't think I was allowed to go... I started to imagine Jesus as a man and not just the Son of God. I guess I borrowed some of Ana's largeness and in the end I shared in her grief, felt the pain of loss deeply, and cried. I always appreciate a book that can effortlessly lead me to an emotional experience.
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Toby A. Smith
June 1, 2020
Sue Monk Kidd's fourth novel offers an enthralling and believable back story to Ana, the much loved wife of Jesus. Wealthy, brilliant, daring, and independent -- with a gift for and love of writing-- Ana receives a much richer education than was typical of girls in this era. Thanks to an indulgent father. But at 14, her parents begin arranging a marriage to a much older widower who will ensure financial comfort for Ana and advance their own personal goals. Ana's objections are ignored. Then, a chance encounter in a marketplace with 18-year-old Jesus changes Ana. And as circumstances unfold, and their OWN marriage becomes possible, Ana finds her life of privilege transformed into one of household chores in the crowded home of her husband's family, while her husband is frequently away searching for work. While Ana's decidedly feminist story is primary in the book, and tells much about the difficulties of being an intelligent woman at a time when women were the property of the men who controlled them -- the story of Jesus is just as compelling. His unique perspective on society, uncertain parentage, and continual religious questioning make him an outlier in the community. He is searching for something. But all the while, what is so touching is the way he supports Ana and encourages her longings for more in life. When Jesus meets John the Immerser (Baptist) and decides to follow him, Ana gets to do some traveling of her own and have her own adventures. Though separated for long periods of time, their love endures. And we learn much about the meaning of family -- which is sometimes made up of those related to you and other times, those you choose. It's a lovely novel. My only criticism is that it felt a bit slow at times, though the last 20% is a real page-turner.
1 person found this review helpful
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Sukie Schroeder
March 17, 2022
Interesting premise.
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About the author

Sue Monk Kidd's debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than six million copies in the United States, was turned into both an award-winning major motion picture and a musical, and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was a number one New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a television movie. Her third novel, The Invention of Wings, an Oprah's Book Club 2.0 pick, was also a number one New York Times bestseller. She is the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, her groundbreaking work on religion and feminism, as well as the New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. She lives in North Carolina.

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