The Book of Longings
Momma Leighellens Book Review
“All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine and listened was the kindness I most loved in him.” – Ana, The Book of Longings
And so begins this beautiful work of fiction. I chose The Book Of Longings for #mommaleighellensbookclub Book of the Month club pick for May. This was a fantastic choice and I’m so thankful to have been able to talk through this book with other women while reading it. I’ve had to take a few days to marinate in all my thoughts. I have ALL THE FEELINGS on this one. It was a bold & unique take on a well known story, powerfully and thoughtfully written, and simply tender.
“Bless the largeness in me, no matter how I fear it. Bless the words I write. When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice.”
This story follows the life, passions and choices of a young woman named Ana, born into a wealthy, educated family and forced to marry a man to improve her father’s status. She longs to live a different life, one where she has choices, can be heard, and make a difference. She sees her brother and father and other men around her with so much more freedom. All around her she sees women who are stuck, abused, taken for granted, and left behind. She wants more. And she wants their stories heard.
“Your moment will come, and when it does, you must seize it with all the bravery you can find.”
There are a multitude of deep themes woven throughout this book – how family history shapes your future, the breadth of female friendship, the importance of equality in a marriage, the strength of faith, the power of a female narrative, and the ability we all have within us to rise up and move forward despite hardship and loss. I loved so many moments in this book I had to switch highlighters to keep track of all my notes!
”It’s always a marvel when one’s pain doesn’t settle into bitterness, but brings forth kindness instead.”
After becoming a widow, Ana eventually comes to befriend and marry a young pre-ministry Jesus. He is kind, he hears and listens to her, and allows her the freedom to grow and make her own choices. The book is less about him and more about her, as shortly after their union he leaves to follow his own calling in life. She must find her own way, without him. Creating a tribe of her own with the women around her, including a delightful grandmother with a story of her own, Ana begins to document their lives by writing their stories so they are not forgotten.
“I saw the world as he did, orphaned and broken and staggeringly beautiful, a thing to be held and put back right.”
This is a well researched, feminist take on biblical times. Monk definitely takes creative liberties here by weaving familiar bible stories to fit into her tale. But she does so with care and honor, so it never felt like a grand religious gesture but a gentile nudge towards the “what if”. A way to share the female narrative we don’t often hear. As a Christian, do not be afraid to read this novel. Yes, you won’t agree with all of it but it will allow you to have some amazing conversations. And any woman who considers herself a feminist should enjoy this one as it allows a woman to tell her faith story herself, from her heart.
“Why should we contain God any longer in our poor and narrow conceptions, which are so often no more than grandiose reflections of ourselves? Let us set him free.”
More Books Like This
The feminist themes in this book are extremely powerful and well thought out. If you like this and are looking for more fiction in this vein, I recommend The Red Tent. If you want a more in depth look at the bible from a feminist perspective, I highly recommend Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey.