“A man’s holy of holies contains God’s law, but inside a woman’s there are only longings…Write what’s inside here, inside your holy of holies.” So said the wise Yaltha as she tapped her niece’s heart, the fourteen-year-old Ana, literate in Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. It is her story that Sue Monk Kidd develops in the novel The Book of Longings (2020), set in first-century Palestine and Egypt.

But such a story it is, the fruit of nineteen years of rumination and composition: Ana as wife and spiritual companion to Jesus of Nazareth; it shimmers with authenticity. Kidd’s meticulous research fleshed out this relationship in broad strokes, allowing readers ample room to internalize this possibility, given that no extant scriptural texts, canonical or non-canonical, speak of Jesus, married or single.

Of course, Jesus would be taken by Ana during their chance meeting at the Sepphoris market. She was already living the selfless love he would articulate later to his followers as the Kingdom of God.

A life-long devotee of Sophia, Ana’s spirit remained ever mindful of her largeness as woman, as scribe of feminine mysteries. From these depths streamed words she inked upon papyrus and bound in codices. Never did she flinch from hardship or abuse intended to silence her tongue or reed pen. With purpose, her sanded feet flew along dusty roads toward experiences that deepened her engagement with life.

Kidd’s novel is also to be relished for its precise language of the seasons’ varied moods. Fresh figures of speech activate the senses and afford believability and immediacy to this captivating world of persons emerging from the pages of the Gospels.

The joy of companioning Ana in The Book of Longings left unparalleled sweetness—a book to savor.