The Book of Longings

Viking Apr. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780525429760. $28. F
A testament to the author’s talent for creating both compelling characters and intriguing story lines, this audacious novel centers on Ana, the fictitious Galilean wife of Jesus and sister of the infamous disciple Judas. Ana is able to read and write, unusual for Jewish women of the time. Her powerful desire to record the stories of women who would otherwise be forgotten drives the first-person narrative, not the life of Jesus, who might be expected to take center stage. Early Christianity is treated respectfully, but as one among many other possible paths to spirituality. Historical details of daily life in the Roman Empire, strong female characters, and richly imagined glimpses into the philosophical communities and libraries in Egypt (where Ana is forced to take refuge) make this an excellent book club choice.
VERDICT Don’t shy away from this historical fiction page-turner thinking that it falls into the inspirational genre. The intensity, bravery, and strength of character of Ana, wife of Jesus of Nazareth, as imagined by Kidd (The Invention of Wings; The Secret Life of Bees) will inspire readers but in a different way: to live authentically and remain true to oneself.
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