Sue Monk Kidd’s fourth novel offers an enthralling and believable back story to Ana, the much loved wife of Jesus. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Wealthy, brilliant, daring, and independent — with a gift for and love of writing– Ana receives a much richer education than was typical of girls in this era. Thanks to an indulgent father. But at 14, her parents begin arranging a marriage to a much older widower who will ensure financial comfort for Ana and advance their own personal goals. Ana’s objections are ignored.
Then, a chance encounter in a marketplace with 18-year-old Jesus changes Ana. And as circumstances unfold, and their OWN marriage becomes possible, Ana finds her life of privilege transformed into one of household chores in the crowded home of her husband’s family, while her husband is frequently away searching for work.
While Ana’s decidedly feminist story is primary in the book, and tells much about the difficulties of being an intelligent woman at a time when women were the property of the men who controlled them — the story of Jesus is just as compelling. His unique perspective on society, uncertain parentage, and continual religious questioning make him an outlier in the community. He is searching for something and his “calling” is only slowly recognized. But all the while, what is so touching is the way he supports Ana and encourages her longings for more in life.
When Jesus meets John the Immerser (Baptist) and decides to follow him, Ana gets to do some traveling of her own and have her own adventures. Though separated for long periods of time, their love endures. And we learn much about the meaning of family — which is sometimes made up of those related to you and other times, those you choose.
It’s a lovely novel. My only criticism is that it felt a bit slow at times, though the last 20% is a real page-turner.
More about the author, Sue Monk Kidd.
You may be interested in my reviews of another book by Kidd: The Invention of Wings