The Book of Longings. In conversation with GPB’s Virginia Prescott.
In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an elderly widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with the eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything: he becomes not only a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart. Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless Aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret, as well as by her devoted friend Tabitha and by Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. A brazen act by Ana, undertaken shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, forces her to flee Nazareth for Alexandria, where she experiences separation and peril. Here, startling revelations unfold and she finds purpose and refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history. Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable 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. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.
Sue Monk Kidd’s debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than one hundred weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, has sold more than six million copies in the United States, was turned into both an award-winning major motion picture and a musical, and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was a number one The New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a television movie. Her third novel, The Invention of Wings, an Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 pick, was also a number one The New York Times bestseller. She is the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, her groundbreaking work on religion and feminism, as well as The New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. She lives in North Carolina.