“I am Ana. I am the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. All my life, longings lived inside of me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine on our thin straw mat and listened was the kindness I most loved in him. What he heard was my life begging to be born.” – pg. 3
Ana is a normal girl living in Sephoris, listening to her aunt’s stories and recording narratives about the women in the Torah.
Ana longs to be a woman with a voice; she even puts her sacred prayer in her prayer bowl: “When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice” (pg. 11). She wants to be someone who is heard and remembered, that her voice, as well as her writings, will live on long after she’s passed.
Her fierce aunt teaches her how to become her own person, and to revere the women in the Torah.
Then she learns that she is going to be married to a man she doesn’t know, and certainly doesn’t like.
Ana’s life changes once her betrothed dies. Relieved and overjoyed, she only wears the mourning clothes for show.
Her life changes again once she meets Jesus, a stonemason who is clearly devout. She is at first curious about this man, then falls in love with him. They end up marrying, and Ana goes to live with Jesus and his family.
Jesus begins to preform small miracles, as well as what I will call acts of kindness. He helps the lepers into the pool to bathe, and begins to form a following based around his beliefs about God. As he decides to leave his home to further create outreach for his ministry, Ana is left behind, and left excluded from the tales of Jesus of him preforming further miracles and practicing his ministry/what he teaches.
The story is limited, unfortunately, by telling the story of Jesus through the eyes of Ana. I feel like, while I know the story of Jesus, it would’ve been interesting to hear his take on what’s happening to him as he formulates his own ministry.
This is my only major critique of the novel. That, I guess, and the pacing. It takes a while for you to really get into the story, and then the novel itself is lackluster for large, exciting plot-lines.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Book of Longings, it just wasn’t my favorite novel by Sue Monk Kidd. I have The Secret Life of Bees, and am eager to see how the book matches up with the film.
I really appreciate, however, a woman’s perspective on Jesus, especially when women aren’t the narrators/writers of Jesus’s life in the Bible. Yes, women are mentioned in the Bible, but they aren’t the center of the Bible. They are put second in a world where men are put first. So, I enjoyed the perspective and Ana’s fierceness very much. I loved how she wrote poems and composed literature on the women of the Torah, giving them the credit and credence that they deserve.
If you like novels about religious figures, this book is something you should at least try. Even if you’re a practicing Christian like me, I say that this book helps give you something to think about in terms of women, the Bible, and who it’s written by and how this could have been different if women had been allowed to write the Scriptures alongside their male counterparts.