Book club questions for The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd takes a closer look at this moving historical fiction story.
This was actually my first novel I’ve read from Sue Monk Kidd but definitely won’t be my last! I really loved her writing. This story is so well-researched and you can tell she put much thought and care in every word that she wrote. Truly a standout novel!
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, 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 older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.
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 Rome’s occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds 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.
Book Club Questions for The Book of Longings
- In her author’s note, Sue Monk Kidd ponders the question – how would the Western world be different if Jesus had married and his wife was included in the story? What are your thoughts on this?
- What are your initial impression of Ana? Let’s talk a bit about how she’s ahead of her time in so many ways.
- How does the title relate to the story? What are Ana’s longings?
- Sue Monk Kidd said that when she approached writing Jesus that she wanted to focus more on his humanity and portray him as “fully human.” What did you think about how she presented Jesus in this story? Do you think there’s a possibly he could have been married?
- Jesus helps Ana and she’s immediately taken with him. Why do you think she was so drawn to Jesus? Let’s talk about their relationship.
- Judas has a large role in this story. Why do you think the author decided to make Ana his sister in the story? What was your opinion of how Judas was portrayed?
- Ana first sees similarities between Judas and Jesus but she eventually learns that they have very different approach for achieving freedom for their people. Let’s talk about this.
- Ana is very close with her aunt Yaltha. On page 84, they discuss knowing the ways of God with her aunt pushing Ana to make her own decisions and not just wait for a sign. Ana thinks to herself, “Could we know the ways of God or not? Did he possess an intention for us, his people, as our religion believed or was it up to us to meanings for ourselves?” Let’s discuss our opinions of what Ana is pondering here.
- Ana wants to have a voice and she finds it through writing. Let’s talk about the importance of Ana wanting to write down the stories of women in an era where only men’s stories were told.
- What did you think about Ana’s life at Jesus’s home with this family? In what ways did it hold her back a bit when it came to finding her voice?
- Ana gets pregnant but the baby dies in childbirth. How would history be different if Jesus did have a child?
- The novel is rich with details about daily life in the Roman Empire and a look at the communities in Egypt. Let’s discuss all the different settings of the novel. What are some key areas that stuck out to you?
- Let’s talk about the change in Jesus’s and Ana’s relationship when he told Ana that God became a father to him and he decided to follow John the Immerser.
- Let’s talk about Ana really found herself and her writing when she was in Egypt.
- Ana is there with Jesus during the crucifixion. Let’s talk about our thoughts as we read this scene.
- What did you think about the ending of this story?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The Book of Longings! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
You’ve no doubt seen the cover for Untamed by Glennon Doyle everywhere!
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.
Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.