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The Book of Longings

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“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.”

Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, Ana is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.

Their marriage unfolds with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, James and Simon, and their mother, Mary. Here, Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her charismatic adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her indomitable aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter, as well as by other women, including her friend Tabitha, who is sold into slavery after she was raped, and Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. Ana’s impetuous streak occasionally invites danger. When one such foray forces her to flee Nazareth for her safety shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, she makes her way with Yaltha to Alexandria, where she eventually finds refuge and purpose in unexpected surroundings.

Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring 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.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published April 21, 2020

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About the author

Sue Monk Kidd

53 books11.9k followers

SUE MONK KIDD was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards. The novel was adapted into a award-winning movie and an Off-Broadway musical.

The Mermaid Chair spent 24 weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, reaching the #1 position, and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times trade paperback list. The novel won the Nation Quill Award and was made into the television movie.

The Invention of Wings, her third novel, was published in 2014 to wide critical acclaim and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list where it remained for 9 months. It was selected for Oprah Winfrey's Bookclub 2.0 and other awards. Wings has been translated to 20+ languages.

She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor.

Her latest novel, The Book of Longings, is to be published on April 21, 2020.

Kidd lives in North Carolina with her husband.

Please visit www.suemonkkidd.com for more information. Follow Sue on Twitter & Instagram @SueMonkKidd and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/suemonkkidd

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,931 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,510 reviews31k followers
May 19, 2020
im not a historian, nor am i a theologian; but neither are necessary to feel so deeply astonished by this story.

before reading, the book synopsis had intrigued me. i found the concept to be fascinating and promising. but it was when i opened to the first page, read the first paragraph, that i knew this story would own my heart. the writing is just so breathtaking beautiful, i had goosebumps. the language is so poetic and radiates love.

and i think thats why this story worked so much for me - because at its heart, its a story of a woman who loves a man and how their intertwining lives bring forth change.

this story does narrate part of jesus’ human life and historical journey (as opposed to a theological one), but it isnt really about jesus. its about ana. a strong, independent, and compelling woman who wants to support the person she loves. i admire her as a character and the strong role womanhood plays in this story. so often woman get overlooked throughout history and lose their voices, so i appreciate how this story gives ana and other women a way to keep theirs.

i know this book wont be for everyone, but i found it to be personally moving in a way i never could have expected.

5 stars
Profile Image for Tammy.
506 reviews422 followers
July 8, 2020
While this novel contains the historical rather than theological Jesus as a character, it is really the story of his fictional wife, Ana. It is widely believed that during the “lost years” of Jesus he worked as carpenter in Sepphoris rather than Nazareth and Ana meets Jesus during this time. The first part of the novel is a bit slow to start but nicely introduces Ana as a feminist with an aching need to read and most importantly to write. Jesus and Ana marry and eventually part as Jesus follows his own ache for God. Ana experiences a lot during their separation and it makes for an absorbing story. The resentment of Roman rule over Judea reaches a breaking point and most of us know what happens next. Don’t go into this expecting religiosity. Instead, Ana is given a presence during a time when women were completely invisible.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,133 reviews39.3k followers
Currently reading
September 30, 2020
Just started it! And look at my silly, too red quarantine reading style!
Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
November 3, 2020
Sue Monk Kidd brings so much heart, insight and new perspective to any work she has done. Several of my favorite books were written by her including Secret Life of Bees and Dance of the Dissident Daughter.

This is similar to Wings of Invention where she takes us into the past and makes it live again. Her writing here is stunning and like poetry. This is a historical fiction book that she made up, but it's so well done that I kept feeling like this was a true account of what happened. Sue did deep and thorough research into what was going on at this time. At the end in her author's note she does tell us all the liberties she took with history and moving events to suit her story. She is honest about it.

This story is about Ana, a girl with a gift for writing in a time and place where women were looked down on wanting to read and write. Jesus is her husband. This is the fictionalized part. Sue makes a great argument in the author's note, which I have made myself which is that the bible never, anywhere says if Jesus were married or not. It never says yes, or no. It isn't mentioned. We do know the bible pretty much thought women were invisible and have few stories in there as the book was written by men.

Sue goes on to say that in the day of Jesus's time, a man was only considered a 'man' when he married. Marriage was how he became an adult. Everyone married at that time. Jesus came right as asceticism was coming to that part of the world. It is possible he didn't marry and maybe that is another reason he was so unwelcome in his home town. There is no record of his life from age 12 to 30, so something happened in there. Maybe he went east and meet the Buddha, which many claim, or maybe he went on having a life like any other Jew and he had a family, who knows.

Sue decided to make up a story where he gets married and Ana is worthy of his love. She is brave and outspoken and has a largeness about her. Woman where property and this book shows all the horrors that women faced. Thank Goddess, we live in a time where woman have more choices. Woman can have a life and make decisions. This was hell for woman. Men treated woman worse than dogs back then. That's where this shines. Sue brings the plight of women into our hearts with this story. We see so many stories woven with Ana's of what life is like for women. There are good men who treat them well, but even still, you had babies and cooked and cleaned. That was it. Then there are worse things that happened.

Jesus loved Ana for seeing the world differently and he respected her. He saw her, to her core. It's a beautiful picture of love between a man and woman. Both had goals in life and both had to let the other reach their potential. Jesus never tried to stop Ana or make her small and Ana never tried to make Jesus stay and not fulfill his contract with God. That's what I loved was seeing the two of them together figuring out how to move forward in life and how to be together.

I cried so many times in this story. The women's stories broke my heart and it's easy to see how it was for those woman and how many woman suffer the same things today.

Ana felt so real, so wonderful, that I wanted her to be real. I wanted this to be a true story, but it's merely fiction. Still, it made me feel so much and weep for all the pain in the world. It's amazing society kept going with so much pain in everyone's lives.

As part of the story, Sue uses and actual poem called The Thunder: perfect Mind written by a female in Egypt and found in Nag Hammadi in 1945 and she lets Ana be the one to write it. She uses passages in the story and it's so strong and powerful. They are beautiful and powerful words. I want to read the entire poem now.

There was an actual group called the Therapeutae that was a Jewish group of scribs that was like a monastery in Egypt outside Alexandria. They let women read and write and they were part of the community. Ana ends up here being able to be her fullest self. That was real and it's a great part of the story.

There is a lot about Harod and his wives. I learned much from this book about the history. The best way to learn is by reading a great author who can bring a time to life. Sue did this here and this story is amazing and powerful. I'm sure people will hate that Sue took liberties with this story, but it's worth reading. It reminds me so much of the 'Red Tent' book, which was also good. Ana just seems more alive and more there. It's more powerful because of Ana.

If people want to see what it really looks like to live by the rule 'wives submit to your husbands' this can show you how bad a world that really is. It shows how painful and horrible the patriarchy really is. We need a world not where one gender rules over another, but where we have both genders equal. It's a tough line to make work, because you have to let both people have the openness to bring out their true potential and that has pain attached to it. It comes down to how Jesus and Ana were apart so much. It was so difficult, but they each had to respect the other. There were times they failed, but in the end, they made it work.

This book will rip your heart out and make you feel like your heart shines. It helped me feel connected to women through the ages. I want to learn more about the women in the bible. I want to have more stories about the women of the day.

Thank goodness Sue gave the world this story. It might be fiction, but it's powerful and there is so much truth told through that fiction. What a beautiful story.

I couldn't put this down and I read it in 2 days.
Profile Image for Kristen.
35 reviews6 followers
January 13, 2020
I was a little skeptical going into this book, mainly because I consider myself a fairly devout Christian. While I am extremely open to interpretations and opposing beliefs, I thought this book would offend rather than inspire. I am so glad that I ignored my reservations and finished the book. This was definitely one of the most delicately explored historical fiction books I have ever read. Sue Monk Kidd explains herself that, while she was extremely careful to perform the necessary research and kept most of her references historically accurate, there were some things that needed to be changed in order to fit her story line. She mentions that while Jesus is never mentioned as having a wife, it is also never mentioned in biblical texts that he did not have one, and this raised a lot of questions for me. We all know that there is little documentation on Jesus's life between his 12th year and 30th year of life, so it is possible that he did not know he was the son of God and followed the expected path of a young devout Jewish man. I believe this book explores that possibility expertly. The storyline, while intricate, will take you on a journey throughout Ana's entire life- the betrayal of her parents, the true love she finds from not only Jesus, but the strong women in her life such as Yaltha and Tabitha, and Ana's own personal longings. She is a strong and inspiring female character, and while some might think the rebellion of a woman in a patriarchal society to be a bit cliche, I thought Kidd wrote it eloquently and believably. While the ending scene felt a little rushed to me, that cannot deter me from the book as a whole. Kidd's writing and research deserve a 5 out of 5.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,276 reviews2,213 followers
August 25, 2020
There have been many times when I’ve read about strong, courageous, intelligent women, both real and imagined who long for and achieve things that are deemed only acceptable and possible for men at the time of history in which they live. I have at those times thought that these were women beyond their time, but now I’m not so sure that thinking does justice to them. The striking thing is that they are women of their time, different than most because of their audacity to follow their longings when up against the societal and historic norms. Ana, the narrator of this novel is one of these imagined characters. She also happens to be married to Jesus. I received an early copy of this, but kept putting it off. I’m a big fan of Sue Monk Kidd, but I was hesitant - not sure if I wanted to read a rewrite or imagined story of Jesus. There may be people who will be offended by the premise that Jesus had a wife, but I was not. The author has chosen to portray Jesus as human, breaking from traditional Christian belief that he was the son of God. It’s a work of fiction and that is emphasized by Sue Monk Kidd in the Virginia Woolf quote she kept propped up in her desk while writing the book : “Everything is the proper stuff of fiction.” I remember she did the same thing with another quote when she was writing The Invention of Wings.

Jesus is a major character in the novel, his travels, his love of the the poor, his love of God who he calls his father - many of the things I know from the Bible are front and center here, but so is his love of Ana, which is beautifully portrayed. Others I know from the Bible are here - the Good Samaritan, Martha and Lazarus, Herod, John the Immerser who we better know as John the Baptist and Simon and his bother Andrew and Judas who in this story is Ana’s cousin raised as her brother. Yet, for me the story was Ana’s because it is not her marriage to Jesus that defines her. Ana is the daughter of a scribe, a father whose only saving grace is that he allowed Ana to read and write and be taught and the daughter of a mean spirited mother who wished that Ana had never been born . There are strong women in Ana’s life, especially her aunt Yaltha, whose strength and support of Ana and her own sad story and longing of her own are part of Ana’s journey. It’s a journey of Ana’s longing to write of the women from the scriptures whose stories needed to be told and remembered. The journey is a lengthy one, sometimes a little too lengthy, and so four stars instead of five. But bottom line is that I’m sorry I waited so long to read this book. I had a hard time putting it down.

I received a copy of this book from Viking through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,940 reviews722 followers
March 25, 2020
For many Christians, it has been believed that Jesus was an unmarried man who was crucified and buried and was the son of God. Our knowledge of his life comes to us through the bible but there were many years that were unaccounted for in his thirty-three years on earth. What if in those years, Jesus did indeed marry? For some this might be a difficult concept and yet Sue Monk Kidd decided to take it on and wrote an interesting tale of just that possibility.

Ana, the future wife of Jesus was a headstrong young woman from Sepphoris. She came from a family of wealth and prestige, but Ana is not content with the life she leads. She longs to write, to be read, to be someone different than what she is expected to be. She doesn't accept the plans her parents laid out for her, for Ana had her own plans, her own dreams, her own desires.

Ana meets and marries Jesus after suffering much grief by her dominant parents. They move to Nazareth and as the story unfolds, Jesus finds in himself the zeal to teach, to challenge the Jewish leaders, to become a target. Leaving Ana to preach, she becomes entrapped in a world where while she longs to be with Jesus, she can't. She is a prisoner trapped in a world where women were held in such low esteem, where they were seen but seldom heard, where their fate was always determined by a male presence.

Using what many of us know about the divinity of Jesus, Ms Kidd creates a more human, less divine character, than the one Christians believe in. She omits the miracles attributed to him, and although she captures the heinous crucifixion, she does not delve into his Resurrection which is a basis for the Christian faith.

However, the story is really about Ana. She is, as is often said, a person born before their time. She is determined, tenacious, and steadfast in her overwhelming desire to write, to be heard, to be her own person. To that end, Ana strives and even though her life has what some would consider insurmountable obstacles, Ana's drive, determination, and perseverance sees her through to a life of her own choosing.

Thank you to Sue Monk Kidd, Penguin Random House Publishing, and Edelweiss for a copy of this book due out April 21, 2020.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
May 13, 2020
I can not tell you how bitterly disappointed I am in this book. I had eagerly awaited its arrival as I really like this author. I wasn't disappointed for the reasons you may think. I am just tired of spending time with characters I do not like and believe me, I did not like Ana, Jesus's wife. And because of this the entire book failed for me.

I had no trouble with Jesus having a wife. We know nothing of his life from 18-30 reading from the Bible. The Bible was written by men so women get a short shift in it and they are not deemed that important. I don't believe Jesus didn't like women. I think he did. It's the same as Mohammad who liked women too but it is their followers who obscured them. It isn't the leaders, it's the followers.

Anyway, I believe it's possible that Jesus married but I don't believe the nickname he would have picked for his wife was "Little Thunder." That seems unlikely to me. Ana is the daughter of the chief scribe of Herod. She knows how to read and write. She is also very opinionated and outspoken. She is unlikely to have existed in those times. I think she is the author's wish that she existed more than a person based in reality. I have a hard time believing she slapped Herod at all and then nothing happened at all.

She is also very selfish and self absorbed. Everything is about what she wanted. She had a servant that she freed but expected him to do everything she wanted the minute she wanted it. He has a new job and a new wife in Egypt but she expects him to drop everything and escort her back to Jesus. He doesn't want to but she accuses him of being selfish (what?). His new wife gets dragged into Ana's plans and complains how many times Ana asks her to lie for her. Ana tells her however many times she needs her to lie to accomplish her goals. Everything is about Ana.

On the whole, this was a very unsatisfactory read for me. I'd like to think if Jesus married it would be to a nicer person.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,712 reviews2,241 followers
May 18, 2020
4.5 Stars

’All my life, longings lived inside 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 longing to be born.’

This is the story of Ana, the daughter of Matthias, who has allowed Ana to learn to write, in a time where very few women were taught this skill. Her father is the head scribe for Herod Antipas, and as such he is able to provide her with papyrus, and the pens and inks with which to write. Her mother is against this, feeling that it will ruin her chances for marriage, but her aunt, Yaltha, whose mind was an immense feral country that spilled its borders and whose mouth was a wellspring of thrilling and unpredictable utterances was educated in Alexandria, and makes sure that Ana is blessed with the same, and shares her knowledge on many topics with Ana. Some of which must be kept from her parents, especially her mother.

Her parents decide early on in this story that it is time for Ana to be wed, and dress Ana to be introduced to her intended, unbeknownst to Ana. As they first arrive, she is mesmerized by the sight of a young man with his hands lifted and strands of spun thread looped over his fingers, moving his finger to make the threads flutter, and laughing. She can’t look away, and he turns. Her mother impatiently calls to her, in order that she may be introduced to the man her parents intend her to marry. He is much older, and when she realizes what is going on she is repulsed, both by the deception involved, and by sight of him. Her mother insists, however, saying that she will want for nothing.

Before they leave, she stumbles, and the man who had been holding the thread is the one to help her up from her fall, and before either of them is able to utter a word, soldiers shove him to the ground. His sister calls his name. Jesus.

While some of this, naturally, has some connection to the biblical story of Jesus, this is really the story of Ana. Their marriage, and how she comes to leave Sepphoris to move to the home of his family in Nazareth are part of this story, but it is Ana’s story that is the heart of this. For those who might think she was portrayed as too much of ‘feminist’ for the era, consider Cleopatra, who was born sixty-some years prior to the birth of Jesus.

Eventually, the story introduces the character of John the Baptist, of whom Jesus has heard stories and wishes to witness this with his own eyes. Eventually he must leave Ana behind in his desire to travel with John the Baptist, since it would be too dangerous for her to go with them.

I loved this, if a bit unevenly at times. There are parts that I felt would have benefitted from some minor trimming, but I loved how beautifully this story was revealed through Ana’s eyes.

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep all libraries running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
725 reviews1,763 followers
February 22, 2020
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus of Nazareth. I am a voice.”

I loved The Invention Of Wings and I will admit to being a lil skeptical about the subject of this novel being about Jesus. I’m so glad I didn’t let that deter me from giving this a chance. I was expecting biblical Jesus, however, Kidd came at this novel from a totally human perspective. Through his wife’s voice. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the concept of Jesus having a wife this novel tells how it is entirely possible. It was realistically and thoughtfully told per the time period. I appreciate Kidd’s explanations for the choices she made in making the story told from Ana’s POV. Her ‘voice’ is one that I will not forget. This would make for a great book club pick. A must read!
360 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2020
I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief. Ana's beliefs about herself were too modern, she was too perfect, there were too many obvious fallacies and inaccuracies for a 'well-researched' book, and I found myself rolling my eyes every time she showed up at YET ANOTHER significant historical event, while remaining largely silent on her husband's activities?

Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.5k followers
May 1, 2020
Why I love it
by Glennon Doyle, Author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed

Sue Monk Kidd, the brilliant, beloved storyteller who gifted us with The Secret Life of Bees, has done it again. Her most recent treasure, The Book of Longings, is the first book that has literally taken my breath away. As I read, I had to close it and breathe deeply, again and again.

Both a radical reimagining of the New Testament, and an homage to all untamed, trespassing women, The Book of Longings is right on time for this moment. The book tells the story of Ana—a brave and ambitious woman who rails against her repressive society, fighting to express herself and realize her full potential. As the daughter of a wealthy politician, Ana is expected to marry a man chosen for her, and not the penniless carpenter named Jesus she meets in a chance encounter. What follows is a stunning and universal portrayal of women’s longing, silencing, and awakening.

I read The Book of Longings right after my own book Untamed made its way into the world, and found Ana of Sue Monk Kidd's masterpiece to be a breathtakingly untamed woman. I will carry The Book of Longings in my heart forever, because it reflects what was always there. I invite every trespassing woman to find her own journey in Ana's story—and to finish this novel mesmerized, encouraged, and emboldened.

Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/the-book-o...
Profile Image for *TUDOR^QUEEN* .
420 reviews435 followers
June 27, 2020
When I saw the premise of this book, that Jesus Christ had a wife, I was quite intrigued to read it. My one hesitation was that this might feel like work to read. I demand from my reading experience to provide an interlude of escape and relaxation. I don't like to "get into the weeds" when I read. On the religious front, I am a believer. But back in the early eighties I purchased "The Reader's Digest Bible" and found that it was the only palatable version I could withstand reading. I needn't have worried about this tome. Ten percent into this I was already enchanted.

This is a work of historical fiction narrated by Ana, the wife of Jesus. As the book begins, she is fourteen. She is not following the accepted role of a young woman in her time. She has great aspirations and longings. Her passion is writing. She feels a sense of destiny that she will do something important with this gift and will be undeterred in realizing this goal. Her father has grudgingly provided tutors so Ana can perfect her writing skills and learn different languages. He has also kept Ana supplied with parchment and material to make inks. She has already documented important stories of females that she knows, since no one seems to write about them. Ana considers her handiwork of these scrolls her most valuable possession.

At this time in history, a woman's role was decided by her parents and involved being a pawn in arranged marriages. A contract would be prepared for the marriage that was advantageous for the parents. Ana's parents had no intention of her prioritizing a writing career of any sort, and they would decide who she would marry. Love was not even a consideration.

Ana's father's sister Aunt Yalta came to live with the family. Yalta is a very strong and calculating woman... a bit of a rogue. She understands Ana better than anyone. They are like kindred spirits. Unlike Ana's parents, Yalta encourages Ana to utilize her talents and inner strength to become the woman she wants to be.

The writing style is very straightforward and easily digestible, the way I like it. Ana meets Jesus in a marketplace at the beginning of the book when she is 14. Without prior warning, Ana is being brought by her parents to meet an intended elderly husband. Nearby, Jesus is helping his sister Salome with some threads for sale at a market table. The second when Ana looks into Jesus's eyes for the first time was a beautiful "aha" moment. Decades later, Ana is right there in the street (along with her mother-in-law Mary) as Jesus is bearing the weight of the cross on his back, struggling with each step to his own execution. This is an incredible book about a very intelligent, strong, talented and brave woman. I am overwhelmed.

Thank you to Viking / Penguin Publishing Group for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,024 reviews48.4k followers
April 21, 2020
Jesus’s wife is back.

The kids won’t believe it, but in 1988 the biggest thing we had to complain about was Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” a Hollywood adaptation of a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis that includes a vision of Jesus married to Mary Magdalene. Protesters picketed theaters, and in Paris they set one on fire. Scorsese received death threats. Several countries banned the film.

Now, into this controversial arena steps Sue Monk Kidd with “The Book of Longings,” a novel about Jesus’s wife. Such a story from Kidd makes sense. Although best known for her 2001 blockbuster, “The Secret Life of Bees,” she began her writing career by publishing spiritual memoirs that described her move from the Baptist theology of her youth to the insights of Christian mystics old and new. In the 20th-anniversary edition of “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” Kidd said she was motivated by a desire to introduce “readers to the lost history of the sacred feminine and to the jolting idea that God can be visualized in feminine ways.” Naturally, that jolting idea was not welcomed in some. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Debbie W..
709 reviews454 followers
February 1, 2021
Much historical, political, cultural and religious research went into the writing of this story. Sue Monk Kidd's writing craft really shines in her development of characters (even several minor ones) as well as her highly descriptive writing. Her "Author's Note", read by Kidd herself, goes on to explain her hesitant reasoning of choosing the possibility of Jesus having a wife and what this woman would have been like; however, the majority of this story focuses on Ana's independent thinking and her love of writing to give women a Voice.

Some nit-picky issues I have included:
1. Why do so many people have to suffer to keep Ana safe?
2. Why does Ana have to be deceitful to Jesus, even though He has been nothing but kind to her, even saving her life?
3. Why is a weak reason given to explain why Ana doesn't assist in preparing her own husband's body for burial? Since she always makes it clear that she is His wife, this would have been highly expected of her!

The real "drawing card", which I believe pulled in most readers, is that the main character, Ana, was written as the wife of Jesus. I really wanted to love this story, but personally, I found it hard to wrap my head around this overall premise, especially since copious amounts of research point to the fact that Jesus was unmarried up until the time of His death. If Mary Magdalene could be mentioned at least five times in the Gospels, you would think Jesus's wife would get an honorable mention! This would have been a fine historical fiction, but if it was so imperative to write this story during the time of ancient Palestine, then keeping Ana as Judas's sister would have been more palatable, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Annette.
743 reviews321 followers
September 4, 2020
This story brings a fictional wife of Jesus. It imagines what is possible rather what is believed. “It could also be argued that in the first-century Jewish world of Galilee, (...) marriage was a man’s civic, family, and sacred duty.” Jesus’s family would expect him to marry.

Sepphoris, 16 CE. Ana is fourteen-years-old. Her aunt Yaltha, who comes from Egypt to live with them, opens Ana’s eyes to a world she had no idea existed. Jewish girls and women in Alexandria, studying with philosophers, writing poetry, and owning houses. Ana by reading the Scriptures on her own discovers that there were also women there, not only men. In that moment, she knows she wants to be a chronicler of lost stories. And whatever her father allowed Ana in the past, a female, now needs to stop as she gets betrothed to a man and a man she doesn’t want to be with.

An encounter with an eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything. “The longing of my heart was for a man I scarcely knew.”

When Ana makes home in Nazareth with Jesus and his family, she realizes that coming from a privileged life to a simple one, now she needs to learn how to perform everyday chores. And what she longs for is being able to write again.

As Jesus follows John the Immerser, his family questions his behavior, making it even harder on Ana, who had to stay behind. Once John is arrested and Jesus becomes “the new John,” this time Ana is allowed to follow him. But something happens and instead following Jesus, Ana needs to flee to Egypt with her aunt.

Most of the story is concentrated on Ana, before she gets married to Jesus and later once married, they are separated many times. What this story brings about Jesus is his very simple life and his very strong belief in a new prophet. And Ana who strongly believes in Jesus, but also craves to continue with her passion as “a student, an ink maker, a composer of words, a collector of forgotten stories…” Both characters are bold and yearn to follow their potential inside them. Since we already know the story of Jesus, I liked it and preferred it that the focus of the story is Ana.

I loved the message of longing, what it means to one and how powerful it can be.

I enjoyed Yaltha being a mentor to Ana, a young girl, who needed it, especially when her mother was cold and not approving of her writing. And through later years, when Ana marries and at times, life puts her through trials.

The time period shows how diverse and advanced Egypt was. I enjoyed very much the atmosphere of Egypt and the story of Yaltha being part of Therapeutae – a community of Jews, philosophers mostly, coming from educated and affluent families, but giving up their comforts to live simple lives dedicated to studying and writing. “It has its goodness, but also its hardships.”

The Jesus’s journey in this story is brief, but it is richly imagined, bringing a good sense of what struggles he goes through and still his positivity radiates, set against the brutal rule of Herod Antipas. One, who strives at all costs to be named King of the Jews by Rome.

Written engrossingly, you want to know what happens next to Ana and Jesus. With characters drawn so interestingly that you care even for Judas. You get the sense of place and time, and with two distinct places I liked the contrast of two places and two different approaches to women, and how diversity can propel advancement, instead of creating division.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,964 reviews2,414 followers
March 7, 2021
I’m not sure what to make of this historical fiction that imagines a wife for Jesus. The story is told from the viewpoint of Ana, who becomes Jesus’s wife when she is 15. It’s obviously highly researched when it comes to picturing the time and place. It’s a place where women are little more than chattel. Kidd does an interesting job of showing how Jesus might have come to his belief system, weaving episodes from this time of his life into his ministry. She also emphasizes his humanity over his divinity.
Ana was an anomaly- a well educated woman. She dreams of having a life worthy of her talents. It also just so happens that Judas is her adopted brother. When she and Jesus meet, as 15 and 19 year olds, respectively, they have an immediate attraction. She is the narrator for this story and it is much more her story than his. Repeatedly, we are shown how women are denied their aspirations, their “longings”. The book fulfilled my requirement of historical fiction by teaching me something new. It introduced me to the concept of Sophia, the feminine embodiment of wisdom. According to Elaine Pagels, she is God’s consort, his partner, his delight. I was also unaware of the Therapeutae.
While I enjoyed the book from an intellectual standpoint, it failed to move me emotionally. I’m not sure why, as Ana was a fully formed character, although I didn’t feel that Jesus was. But it just never tugged on my heart, even during the crucifixion scene.
I read this for my church’s book club and i do feel it will make for a very interesting discussion.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,039 followers
November 11, 2020
If you are a fan of myth retellings or Biblical tale reimaginings, this is likely a book for you. Sue Monk Kidd also takes the material she wrote a memoir about over a decade ago and uses it in this novel. That memoir had an impact on me when I first read it - The Dance of the Dissident Daughter - about her discovery of Gnosticism, feminist spirituality, and how that changed her perspective of her own faith. It was easy for me to see how those ideas are wound through this novel.

Okay, so if that didn't scare you away, I feel I should also say that you will get more out of this book the more you know about the Biblical/Historical Jesus. But many who know a lot about that may be turned off by the idea of Jesus having a wife. The author addresses this very well in the back of the book, and I would encourage reading that if it is something you are not sure about. She acknowledges which things she changed from the traditional Biblical narrative, which things she borrowed from other places, and which came from her own mind. If anything, Kidd is a master of threading her research into her stories. I read The Thunder: Perfect Mind first when I read Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels so I definitely recognized it when it came up in this story; I was relieved to see her credit it and explain where it comes from after the end of the novel.

That is a lot of overture and caveat, but any reader of Sue Monk Kidd should not be surprised by feminist underpinnings to this novel. It is about Ana, the wife of Jesus, from her childhood to later in life. Ana begs her father to allow her to learn how to read and write so in an era of expensive parchment and lack of education for women, she learns how to read and write, and in more than one language. Learning and writing, inspiration and calling are all important themes in the book as Ana navigates feeling called while also being told it isn't appropriate (from her family) or possible (once she is married and much poorer) by the people around her.

And what do you do with a woman who believes she has something to say? I enjoyed the thought experiment of such a woman and what the man Jesus (based on a blending of Biblical text and historical documents) would have done with such a wife. I kind of hate that I enjoyed it but growing up in fundamentalism it's pretty hard not to want to imagine the what if's from the women excluded from stories.

The other thing that I think Kidd does very well is the way she weaves in the stories of the New Testament into Ana's story but gives them a little twist. The first time this is hinted at is when Ana visits the temple in Jerusalem, but you really see different contexts for the stoning ("let he who is without sin cast the first stone"), the "Good Samaritan," and that's just the beginning.

Ana loves Jesus, but she only really knows him as a kind man, who has a calling of his own. The way they release each other into that calling is an incredible act of love, but she never sees him as magical Jesus; she never sees any miracles for instance. There are reasons for this in the text but I like how it gives her a very specific personal version of him, and she loves him.

I had a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss; it came out April 21, 2020.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
256 reviews287 followers
April 6, 2020
The Book of Longings is a what if: what if Jesus was married? It's certainly a valid question as his movements, as tracked in the Bible, don't start until he's well into adulthood, and documents from the time period are spotty due to all the unrest in Emperor Tiberius"s reign.

Sue Monk Kidd introduces Ana, daughter of wealthy parents who has learned to write, believes in herself and that women matter outside the home (this was a fairly radical notion) and is related to Judas.

Ana is a great at everything, always has her wits about her, and manages to carve out her own life while being present for the start of Jesus' ministry and his death.

This should be a great book--it is written with care and a close eye for historical events, etc. but Ana is simply too perfect. There is nothing she can't do, no historical moment she isn't part of, and those with even a passing familiarity with Jesus's life know what will happen. Everything unfolds at a near glacial pace and while I enjoy description and side quests as much as anyone, this would have been better as a novella, with tighter pacing and less meandering toward the foregone conclusion.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,113 reviews8,046 followers
December 8, 2020
"All shall be well...I don't mean that life won't bring you tragedy. I only mean that you will be well in spite of it. There's a place in you that is inviolate. You'll find your way there, when you need to. And you'll know then what I speak of."

In The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd has given voice to women of the 1st century. Really she's given voice to the unheard women of history through the imagined narrative of Ana, Jesus' wife.

Obviously no one knows whether or not Jesus was ever married, but that's beside the point. Kidd has created a story that encapsulates so much more than intrigue over whether or not Jesus was ever married; she has written a richly woven tapestry through the eyes of a 1st century Jewish woman and resurrected the lost narratives of many women like her.

Ana is a superb narrator. She is strong-willed but empathetic. She has a passion for writing, these longings that stir within her and drive her story forward. But she is confined by the historical setting in which she lives, a setting that Kidd clearly researched at length. You get a strong sense of place without it ever bogging down the true center of the story: Ana's life. The descriptions, whether architectural, political or social never detract from Ana's story, but only serve to illuminate it like the words she writes on any surface she can find. Whether on papyrus or fragments of clay pots, Ana's heart spills out through her writing and leaves a lasting mark.

I was thoroughly impressed by this. I know the subject matter may either turn people away who aren't interested in Jesus/Christianity, or conversely upset those who are devout believers. I would encourage going into this with an open mind, as Kidd clearly respects the subject while also honoring her job as a storyteller. She is not, in my opinion, blasphemous—rather she seems to follow Jesus' own mission which is to give voice to those forgotten, "the least of these" which in this historical context, sadly, was women.

Not only is the story compelling but the prose is beautiful. It reminded me, at times, of Madeline Miller's Circe. I think fans of historical/mythological retellings would find enjoyment in this book as with Miller's.

Ana is a character I will be thinking about for a long time. Whether she existed or not doesn't matter because, thanks to Kidd, she exists now and compels the reader to view Jesus' narrative through a different, oft-forgotten lens of history.
Profile Image for marta the book slayer.
382 reviews811 followers
August 2, 2020
I really do not know what overcame me when I placed a hold on this book. It was an incredibly long wait, so by the time I actually had a copy in my hands I was questioning why I picked such a book. I honestly think that I'm the minority of people that hated this book, because it had such good reviews (probably why I placed a hold in the first place).

I am a huge fan of Finding Jesus,a show that focuses on uncovering the history behind some of the well known items and figures in Christianity. Maybe this obsession with the show drew me into this book? I'm unsure, however this felt like a work of Jesus fan fiction. I don't think my religious beliefs play a huge part in why I hate the book but something about this just felt wrong and uncomfortable. The author's notes were my favorite part of the book because you can tell she did extensive research and pinpointed exactly the parts in the story that deviated from the works she was referencing.

Judging it as a work of fiction, which I have seen other's pleas to do, I find myself still finding the story flat. I don't really think there was a captivating plot. Ana's character was so fucking annoying, I almost placed the book down and didn't pick it up again (which I never do with novels no matter how terrible so this should tell you something). Also the idea of her and Jesus having sex is just so disturbing....

All in all you're better off reading the Bible and pondering the idea of Jesus having a wife. This work of fiction wasn't it. Thank you to Elena for keeping me company on this journey. I can't apologize enough for making you pick this book up enough after dnf-ing so I could have someone to rant to while I read this.
Profile Image for Lisa.
610 reviews232 followers
July 24, 2021
An imaginative and intriguing story of a first century woman full of courage and perseverance.

Ana was raise in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee. She is rebellious and has a daring spirit. She desires to write about the neglected and silenced women of her times. Unwillingly, Ana is betrothed by her parents an landowning older widower. And then she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus in the market place.

After the death of her betrothed, Ana marries Jesus and they live with his brothers families, and their mother, Mary in Nazareth

Ana’s pent-up longings intensifies amid the turbulent resistance to Rome’s occupation of Israel. Ana’s brother, Judas, is an active member of the resistance. She is sustained and encouraged by her fearless Aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret of her own. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria with her Aunt, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she ultimately finds refuge in unexpected surroundings.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS is an imaginative and intriguing first person narrative set in the first century. Ana, is a women who more than anything wants to reach her potential and wants her voice to be heard. Ana’s character is full of courage and perseverance.

I approached this book cautiously, raised a Catholic I personally believe that Jesus never had a wife. But what if he did? Can’t we just imagine that for a while? What would she have been like. What would she think about him. THE BOOK OF LONGINGS is a work of fiction. It is not trying to rewrite history. This is Ana’s story, and she had a quest of her own.

One of the most amazing things I learned from the book was that a hymm written by Ana was actually extracted from a real document, known as the Nag Hammadi text, written by an unknown female author during the same time period.

Sue Monk Kidd’s writing is touching and poignant. She skillfully transports us back in time and I appreciate that she had tried to be true to the historical, cultural, political and religious backdrop. I particularly liked that her author notes identify the key areas in her novel that deviate from the know timeline, the written Word or from accepted tradition.

Kidd is from Sylvester Georgia and is best known for her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings. Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin/Viking for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Viking
Published April 21, 2020
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com
Profile Image for Kate.
1,217 reviews2,209 followers
June 15, 2020


I went into this book very, very intrigued - as I always am very interested in adaptations/retellings/alternate reality stories especially since focusing on such in my MA. So the story of an alternate world where Jesus had a wife? like yes, consider me intrigued.

I then became slightly uncomfortable lol like most Christians, I really don't want to hear about how hot Jesus is? or hear about things Jesus would do with his wife? so there was definitely a section in there I was just a BIT sleeved out.

But this book, is SO obviously incredibly well researched and well considered. Like I mentioned above, the authors note really gave a new perspective to what SMK wanted to explore with this story. The idea of Jesus having a wife is an interesting one - but then, if you consider this as a reality, that maybe he DID have a wife (as SMK explains in her authors note, it could have very well been the case that he did) then she would be the most silenced woman in history - and what that means for feminism, feminist lit/scholarship, and women. That point REALLY hit me after I read it and read the authors note, and truly made me sit here thinking and considering everything over again.

Besides all of that - whether or not its accurate, weird, uncomfortable or not - this book is VERY well done. Even if it was a historical fiction or a fantasy novel or any other genre like completely separate from Jesis, this book would still be a hit. It's VERY well done. The writing is amazing, the characters are SO well developed, the "world building" is incredible, and the story is captivating.

I'm not sure who to recommend this to lol if you're interesting, I think you should check it out! Maybe read SMK's authors note in the back of the book before buying it/checking it out to see if it sways you one way or the other. Cause it definitely made me like this book even more than I already did (it was probably a 4 star, and hasn't author's note pushed it up that .25 star!)
Profile Image for Katie (never.ending.reading.list).
136 reviews121 followers
June 11, 2020

I was skeptical when I first heard about this one but definitely curious. It felt blasphemous to read a book with a fictionalized love story with Jesus but I decided to give it a shot - I'm so glad I did.

The story is remarkable. It focused on the historic life of Jesus and didn't touch on the divine. It was interesting to imagine his life and what his day to day or his lost years would entail. I learned so much about the times and beliefs of people in the Middle East during the 1st century. Sue Monk Kidd did a great job telling this story and bringing it all to life.

While there was a great love story, this book is about Ana - Jesus' fictionalized wife. Ana's life shows the reader the horrible struggles women faced. Her journey to learn and share her writings with the world was remarkable. While I don't believe Jesus had a wife, I like to think that a women like Ana did exist during these times. I hope she found her voice.
Profile Image for Jonas.
175 reviews13 followers
March 26, 2021
The Book of Longings is an amazing work of historical fiction. It explores many themes including identity, women’s rights, oppression, God, adoption (and ramifications of reunification) loss, grief, and finding life (your longing).

Many may choose not to read this book because Jesus (and his story) play a part in the narrative, and the idea that he had siblings or was married would be too much for them. It was not for me. It is Ana’s story and her journey, as well as the story of those close to her. All of the people close to her grow and change.

I was equally invested in the stories of Lavi, Tabitha, and Yaltha. The Book of Longings is as much the story of Yaltha and the search for her daughter, Chaya, as it is the story of Anna and her longings to be a scribe and to marry Jesus. The Book of Longings is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Acceptance is another theme that is explored on different levels. One of my favorite quotes is, “We will teach you about our God and you will teach us about yours, and together we’ll find the God that exists behind them.” What a beautiful world it would be if all minds and hearts were so open.
Profile Image for Barbara.
268 reviews206 followers
January 23, 2021
"We women harbor our intimacies in locked places in our bodies. They are ours to relinquish when we choose."

When I first read Sue Monk Kidd had written a new book and it was about Jesus, I was not interested. I felt it would be a didactic persuasion which I wasn't interested in. Chosen by one of my book clubs, I unwillingly started to read it, but I read it with a skeptic's lens, thinking the proof of my reservations was about to be revealed. I needn't have worried.

This is Ana's story. She is the hypothetical wife of Jesus, though he gives historical perspective; it is not about him. Ana is a precocious girl who, similar to other women throughout history, longs for knowledge denied her, a girl who wants to make her voice heard. When she marries Jesus, a match not worthy of her class, she is disowned. She remains close to her brother Judas and her aunt Yaltha, outcasts in their own right and the two other most interesting characters.

Monk Kidd's descriptions of Jerusalem and Alexandria are vivid. The oppression of the Romans and the covert activities to overthrow them enhanced what I previously knew. The extreme difference between everyday life, culture, and freedoms in the two ancient cities was also fascinating. Most interesting was Ana's awakening to a new form of religion, a spiritualism of self, of God in nature, a God who does not dictate every aspect of your life.

The Secret Life of Bees by Monk Kidd was a very good book. This, I believe, is her masterpiece.

"Of all the emotions, hope was the most mysterious. It grew like the blue lotus, snaking up from muddy hearts, beautiful while it lasted."
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
1,992 reviews208 followers
May 22, 2021
Yikes. This is a rewrite on everything I ever learned in Sunday school. Between the title about "longings" and the first bold statement, "I'm Jesus's wife" I was hoping we weren't in for something to challenge Salome's 7 sexy veils and Solomon's many mentions of plump pomegranates - which for me is as exotic and erotic as bible characters need to be. I didn't want to have to unsee/unimagine anything savior-related.

With trepidation I ventured forth, and because we started out in Roman-ish households and situations I felt confident we were far away from the “wife” thing. And we were. Rather than taking umbrage at Ana’s first claim and building up my ecclesiastical defense of everything anyone ever taught me (because of course they know the absolute truth of things), I rode the wave of suspended disbelief in order to have a fuller picture. Ah. . .Ana is Judas’s sister. Which surprisingly doesn’t complicate things because of timelines, political leanings of the various characters, and soon I was in it. The author used all the characters already known and approached all of them from a very different direction. . . ordinary, everyday life. Not a far reach but enough of one that it got me thinking about all of the New Testament stories in a different way, and it has been a long time since I did more than rote reading of that old friend.
Thinking of all the complications of everyday life in that time, that place, those politics. Thinking that maybe he didn’t know from conception what the plan was. . . and maybe years 20 through 30 were filled with a life more normal than just taking care of Mom happened. If for no other reason, I’m glad to have read that story – thinking about Jesus as a husband, as a provider (without heavenly magic involved), as a sinless person in that span and relationship. It really got me thinking. Can two people spend 10 years together and NEVER commit a sin???? Not once, not even a teensy one? Then you get to thinking about all the rules, commandments and boxes we are all busy trying to check. Oy. Makes me tired. These are the different diving boards reading this book presented for me.

I dreaded what I knew was coming, and it was hard to read, but I loved the way it was handled (crucifixion). In the traditional setting you hear all about the what the men did, with the ladies doing cleanup later. In SM Kidd’s version of the tale, women were front and center everywhere, as I think they would have been. There is a certain amount of all the things we know in hindsight that are gathered in and are added to the tale, but they work. . .just feels a little convenient. Other than that, I think this is a surprisingly worthy read. I can imagine the robust book club discussions if anyone tries to even dare present this as a real possibility overriding commonly held traditions and beliefs, but on the other hand, those are my favorite to be part of. . .so there’s that.

And, after having read it, I do think about that Jesus in my head differently – that perfect guy who used to be white, and kinda German/Scandinavian (I grew up with the Harry Anderson version) – I’m now adjusted to and welcome the ethnically corrected image, but the difference goes beyond image now, thanks to Sue Monk Kidd. While I’m beyond grateful for all that was done for me, he could’ve really been an awesome husband, and had a meaningful life doing good with his faithful twelve, without getting political or uber-religious. He could have still stayed in contact with Higher Power and done good on the sly and come up behind the Herods and changed history a different way. But maybe there is an author working on that somewhere in the world. This author pulls the plug and the husband of Ana had to choose who he was – and Ana didn’t win – hence, the writings full of Longing. . . .

One last thing I loved. Ana didn’t think much of “God” or the divine male as a higher power, since so many things had gone sideways in her life – He hadn’t really proved himself. She prayed to the divine female, who she was told is named Sophia. I can relate to Ana, a lot. I find myself looking for Sophia in my life. . . .

4 stars for providing such great diving boards to dive deep enough to pull up new thoughts on very entrenched topics. If I keep thinking on this, I may move this to 5 stars.
Profile Image for Julie.
477 reviews3 followers
September 5, 2022
The Book of Longings, yea, longing for it to end. Here are just a few reasons why I disliked this book.

1) Ana is a self-righteous, self-absorbed brat and I couldn't stand being trapped in her head when she goes on and on about ink and paper and struggling to find her true meaning. Ugh!
2) The book is sprinkled with popular biblical stories, for example the Good Samaritan and "...be the first to throw a stone...", and guess who is at the center of all of them, yup, surprise, Ana. Why? Was this really necessary? It became predictable.
3) Sweet baby Jesus, the best pet name you can come up with for your petty and selfish wife is "little thunder?" I wanted to gag myself with a spork every time this epithet was used. What did Ana do to earn this? Thunderous she was not, unless you have to sit in her head for 13 hours wondering what else she will pawn for paper and ink instead of, oh you know, help feed the family? It gave me a thunderous headache that's for sure.
4) Yaltha - Total Carole Baskin.
5) Jesus is cool with birth control? That had what little Catholic remains in me laughing but also shaking my head because I believe it was meant to demonstrate Ana's ambition but seems to me everyone was doing it.
5) My main complaint is that Ana doesn't develop. We meet her when she's 11, then, I don't know, five pages later she's 14 and not much changes. She gets married - to the messiah - learns to milk a goat, gets baptized, parents die, flees country, husband is crucified, etc etc and, to me, she still sounds like the 14 year old.

I appreciate the author's research and her explanation for the book. Sorry it was not for me.

Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,856 followers
July 14, 2020
Is this latest novel by the author of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES and THE INVENTION OF WINGS blasphemous, since it’s a story about the wife of Jesus? I think that’s a question readers will have to answer for themselves, but anyone with trepidation may be better informed for their decision by reading the Author’s Note at the end of the book.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS is *historical fiction,” and nobody’s saying it’s a recently unearthed memoir. If you can accept the concept that Jesus may have had a wife that history has erased (Ana), then what you’ll find is a well written, thought provoking piece of literature. I loved Ana’s strength of character and desire (or shall I say longing?) to give voice to silenced women.

I don’t read many books in this genre, but it was reminiscent of THE RED TENT to me. Fans of that novel (and of Sue Monk Kidd) should flip to the back, read the Author’s Note, then dive in.
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