Having read and enjoyed other books by Sue Monk Kidd, I picked The Book of Longings off the library shelf, without looking beyond the title and author. When I began to read I was surprised by the opening sentences. ‘I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth’.
Like Beneath the Tamarisk Tree, which I recently read and reviewed, this is an imaginative novel set in the 1st century AD (CE). Sue Monk Kidd has invented a person Ana, and filled in the missing gaps in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, which are not mentioned in the Bible. Christian tradition is that Jesus did not marry, but I found the story gripping and well researched. I read all 418 pages of the book in two days!
The phrase ‘beneath the tamarisk tree’ appears in The Book of Longings. Sue Monk Kidd writes to show the plight of women in society. Ana longs for a voice and finds hers through writing. All the characters are portrayed vividly as individuals. The various strata of society from rulers to poor people all feature. There are also people from different places, with different beliefs. It is a very thought-provoking book. Sue Monk Kidd has treated her subject matter in a sensitive manner. Some biblical characters have been given backgrounds, which perhaps differ from the traditional views of them. Her Salome is a sister of Jesus. I deduced that the Salome at the cross was the mother of James and John. The Bible does not spell this out.
A Question and Answer section with the author is included at the end.
The Book of Longings is available in various formats including as an audiobook. (I read the paperback edition.)
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