This one was a book club book and honestly, one I didn’t enjoy. At first, I was excited to be reading another Sue Monk Kidd novel. Like most people, I liked “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Mermaid Chair,” although I admit I wasn’t as into them as some of my friends. Still, Kidd is a good writer so I was looking forward to reading another one of her books. I think there are two reasons I didn’t enjoy this book. First, yes, I am a Christian woman but actually that part of the story didn’t overly bother me. For those not familiar with the plot of this book (and why my religion matters), it tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth before he began his ministry at age 30 BUT it’s told from the first-person perspective of Ana, the wife of Jesus. Now, I know what you’re thinking…DaVinci Code anyone? Plus, wasn’t Mary Magdalene Jesus’s supposed wife? All good questions. “The Book of Longings” contends that a woman named Ana was Jesus’s wife, not Mary, whom he met when he was 20-ish years old. However, it’s important to remember that this book follows Ana, not Jesus. In fact, Jesus is actually more of a side character who frequently enters and leaves the story as he goes off to work, follows his ministry, and eventually dies in Jerusalem. The story begins when Ana is a child, way before she met Jesus. But all this backstory brings me to my first reason for not liking the book: I didn’t connect with Ana much at all, which is ironic since this is a first-person story. Even though I could “see” inside her head and into her thoughts, I just couldn’t bring myself to really care about her one way or the other. I even liked some of the other periphery characters more than her! That’s unusual for me and not in a good way. The second reason I didn’t like the book is that I wanted more details about what it was like to live as a woman in first century Middle East. I thought Kidd touched on some of their traditions briefly, but I just wish she had gone more in-depth. And she kept trying to bring literary devices into the book that never quite worked out because like the history, she just didn’t go deep enough. For example, she wanted Ana to be a strong feminist but never quite got there. She wanted to weave well-known elements of the Bible into Ana’s story but never quite got there either. It was just such a mishmash of so many different things that not one was done really well. I can understand why this book didn’t garner the attention or praise some of Kidd’s other books did. If I had a choice, I would give this one a pass and move on to a better book. There are a lot of good ones out there!
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