June 22

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Ever imagine if Jesus had a wife?

Sue Monk Kidd did and has written an incredible story about who she may have been.

She was Ana – a rebellious, wip-smart woman full of curiosity and gifts, all glorious traits we want in women today – back then, ah, not so much. Ana was a force, so you won’t be surprised to hear she was silenced by the patriarchy, nearly stoned to death, scorned and hunted.

Be you a believer or agnostic, I think you will love this book. Is it possible to be bit of both? I might be. During my childhood Good Friday’s were spent with family in Orange who, after a big celebratory lunch, would settle around to watch the annual Easter movie about the crucifixion – sounds grim I know, but for the love of chocolate eggs, I adored it. It was less about religion, more a beautiful family tradition and this story made me deeply nostalgic.

So, regardless of where you sit on the religion-o-meter, many of the well known biblical story-lines you may well know are in these pages – but they are not painted like miracles so while all familiar, they’re served with a healthy dose of reality.

Ana is born very wealthy in Galilee and is therefore protected from the horrors of Rome’s occupation in Israel. As a woman though she can’t escape everything. She is presented to horrid rich men for potential marriage by her parents – but luck, or prayers to the God Sophia, save her when a carpenter Jesus proposes marriage and she escapes to live with his family in Nazareth.

Jesus is who you think he will be – full of passionate, enormous ideas with a deeply devout drive to follow God’s word. Ana too is full of passion and secretly writes (an illegal practice for a woman) about all the neglected and silenced women in her life. She is brave and matches Jesus in his quests.

This bravery nearly costs her life and Ana is forced to flee to Egypt while Jesus builds his following across Israel as the Messiah. Ana desperately plots to return to his side. She waits for word from her beloved brother (drum roll please) Judas (see where this is going) on when she can make her way home – which she does on what happens to be the eve of her husband’s crucifixion.

Sue Monk Kidd needs no introduction as a master of story telling and she doesn’t disappoint with The Book of Longings. She delivers a sweeping, clever and magical idea, steeped in history and faith and her glorious leading lady Ana is a heroine for our time and hers.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.