Sue Monk Kidd's New Novel The Book of Longings Imagines if Jesus Had a Wife
Sue Monk Kidd's audacious fourth novel, The Book of Longings, imagines the astonishing life of Ana, born into a wealthy family with ties to Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee. Rebellious, outspoken and unwilling to accept the subservient role of first-century women, she wants only to be allowed to write, which she sees as her calling.
At 14, Ana is betrothed to an elderly widower she finds repugnant. The man she is truly drawn to is an 18-year-old stonemason named Jesus. Ana encounters him one day in the marketplace and finds that "he was as wondrous as inks and papyrus, that he was as vast as words. That he could set me free."
When Ana is finally able to break her engagement, she moves to Nazareth and becomes Jesus's wife. As Jesus gains renown for his work with the Apostles and nonviolent resistance to Roman rule, the couple begin to see that they are both in danger, so Ana leaves Galilee to join a cloister of Jewish philosophers in Egypt. But when Ana's adopted brother, Judas Iscariot, betrays Jesus, she returns to her husband's side near the end of his life.
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? It's not such a leap—the gospels portray Jesus gently championing women. Ana writes, "All my life, longings lived inside me.... That my husband bent his heart to mine...and listened... What he heard was my life begging to be born."
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