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The Book of Longings

by Sue Monk Kidd

Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Modern and Contemporary Fiction Relationship Stories Star Books

LoveReading View on The Book of Longings

What if Jesus had married? What kind of woman would he marry? Who would marry him?  These questions are at the heart of Sue Monk Kidd’s sweepingly inventive The Book of Longings.

Ana, with her “turbulent black curls and eyes the colour of rainclouds” and a narrative voice that sweeps you up in its bold passion, was born into a wealthy Galilean family. Sharp-minded and a gifted writer, Ana secretly transcribes the stories of matriarchs in the scriptures, women omitted from the records: “To be ignored, to be forgotten, this was the worst sadness of all. I swore an oath to set down their accomplishments and praise their flourishings, no matter how small. I would be a chronicler of lost stories.”

Ana seems destined to marry an elderly widower to further her father’s career (he’s the closest adviser to Herod Antipas, whom Ana despises), until she encounters eighteen-year-old Jesus and is emboldened and aroused by his revolutionary ideas: “I called him Beloved and he, laughing, called me Little Thunder.” Jesus understands Ana’s longings, her “life begging to be born,” and she loves his kindness, his capacity for listening. Of course, we know how the real-life narrative plays out, but this affecting story gets under the skin as familiar events unfold through Ana’s eyes, as a proto-feminist, as wife of Jesus, as sister of Judas.

Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Joanne Owen

The Book of Longings Synopsis

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

'I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.'

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman called Ana.

Ana is a rebellious young woman, a gifted writer with a curious, brilliant mind, who writes secret narratives about the neglected and silenced women around her. Raised in a wealthy family in Galilee, she is sheltered from the brutality of Rome's occupation of Israel. Ana is expected to marry an elderly widower to further her father's ambitions, a prospect that horrifies her. A chance encounter with the eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything: his ideas and his passion are intoxicating.

Taking Ana on a journey she could never have imagined, The Book of Longings is a glorious evocation of a time and a place where astounding events unfolded, and of one woman's fate when she fights to make her voice heard.

The Book of Longings Press Reviews

'The stunning metaphors and realistic characters are so poignant they will bring tears to your eyes' - Library Journal

'A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman - slave or free . . . a conversation changer' - Oprah Winfrey, O, The Oprah Magazine - Oprah Winfrey, O, The Oprah Magazine

This year's The Help - but even better - Fabulous

'A resonant, illuminating novel' - Observer

'Wonderful - well-written, moving and engaging by turns, and always compelling' - Daily Mail

'The tale of one motherless daughter's discovery of what family really means - and of the strange and wondrous places we love' - Washington Post

'Moving, original, and accomplished . . . It is wonderfully written, powerful, poignant, and humorous' - Joanna Trollope

'Exhilarating. . . powerful' - Washington Post

Praise for Sue Monk Kidd's earlier novels I kept having to close this novel and breathe deeply, again and again. A radical re-imagining of the New Testament that reflects on women's longing and silencing and awakening, it is a true masterpiece. - Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed

No other writer has fleshed out a partner who can stand on her own, who is intellectually and spiritually well matched with Jesus . . . Kidd's research into first-century Jewish life, along with her vivid descriptions of the villages and terrain, make Ana's story come alive - Christian Science Monitor

* A master of literary women's fiction, Kidd always strikes a chord with her strong, feisty female protagonists . . . [The Book of Longings] is an engaging story about a young woman defying the odds to make her voice heard, a story that remains relevant today . . . [and] underscore[s] what's lost when one group - be it one gender, race or religion - gets to write the history for all. - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kidd describes a first-century world full of political and religious tensions, which feels simultaneously ancient and freshly awake with spiritual possibility. [...]The message about the importance of kindness and the power of women's voices should resonate strongly with today's readers' - Booklist

Ana's ambition and strong sense of justice make her a sympathetic character for modern readers ... A vibrant portrait of a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women's stories - her own and countless others - Publishers Weekly

Kidd's bold narrative revisionism allows her protagonist to be in every respect the equal of her husband while posing this question: How would Western culture be different if men and women had grown in appreciation of each other's spirit? - O, The Oprah Magazine

An inspiring story of a strong woman living in a society bent on her silence - Good Housekeeping (US)

'A testament to the author's talent for creating both compelling characters and intriguing story lines ... The intensity, bravery, and strength of character of Ana ... will inspire readers ... to live authentically and remain true to oneself' - Library Journal

'A wonderfully researched novel ... reimagining the past through the eyes of a creative, curious and defiant woman' - Culturefly

Imaginative . . . Charts a young woman's struggle to confront the ways in which society dictates what she can and cannot do. - TIME

Riveting . . . Telling the story of an extraordinary life in one of the most startling pieces of historical fiction you're likely to set eyes on this year - Sunday Business Post

Kidd uses her unexpected narrator to reveal new perspectives on an endlessly parsed era. - The Washington Post

Superlative . . . from a writer at the top of her game . . . A practically perfect historical novel - New York Journal of Books

This is not Jesus' story, but Ana's. [...] The Book of Longings is the testament of a bold woman, and the story of many stolen female voices. - Irish Times

This novel has an intriguing premise . . . The novel's evocation of life in Galilee is fascinating, and clever, rebellious Ana is a memorable character. - -The Times (UK)

Brilliant ... the familiar characters brought to vivid life - Daily Mail

A bold, imaginative reworking of the Christian tale from a female perspective - Sunday Times

Compelling ... Ana is a truly wonderful character, strong and inspiring, and her life story so captivating that it swept me along - Good Housekeeping

Unleashes the reader's imagination with glorious evocations of extraordinary times and places, allowing our minds to roam... Original, challenging, beautiful -- Adele Parks - Platinum

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781472232519
Publication date: 18/03/2021
Publisher: Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781472232496
Publication date: 21/04/2020
Publisher: Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781472232519
Publication date: 18th March 2021
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 432 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Relationship Stories, Star Books,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Historical fiction,

About Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd is the author of the highly acclaimed bestsellers The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. The Secret Life of Bees was her first novel. Selling over 6 million copies, it has become a modern classic and has been adapted into a feature film starring Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Hudson.   Author photo © Roland Scarpa

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