the book of longings

3.5 stars

This was a beautifully written historical fiction about the fictitious marriage of Ana, a young girl raised in a wealthy family, and Jesus. It focuses on the unknown time in Jesus’ life between the age 18 and the time he began his public ministry.

Ana is a smart, determined girl that feels stifled by the strictures her life. She wants to do more with her life than be just a wife and mother. She engages in scholarly pursuits and writes stories about neglected and silenced women. When she has a chance meeting with 18 year old Jesus, she is drawn to his spiritual and philosophical ideas.

Once married, Ana moves in with Jesus’ family in Nazereth. They barely scrape by and her life is filled with chores while waiting for Jesus to return from various jobs in other towns. Her only solace is her spirited and lively Aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter. Ana’s choices and circumstances often put her in danger and just before Jesus begins his public ministry, she flees Nazareth for Alexandria, where she finds refuge and purpose in an enclave of scholars.

The focus of the book is Ana, and the author expertly weaves in stories about Jesus from the bible, but he doesn’t play a huge part in the book. The author’s writing style is beautiful and the story unfolds slowly. Sometimes too slowly. Parts of the book really dragged and I found it hard to push through them. I loved the relationship between Ana and her Aunt Yaltha. It was so loving and supporting – a relationship all women would cherish having in their life. The book ends shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. This was a good book that is an interesting take on what Jesus’ life could have been like before he began his ministry.