Excerpt from The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
This introductory piece by Sue Monk Kidd describes the day she wrote the first lines of The Book of Longings, followed by a link to the full excerpt…
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. I called him Beloved and he, laughing, called me Little Thunder.”
These are the opening lines of The Book of Longings, containing Ana’s bold announcement. I remember the day I typed them on the keyboard, and then sat there, staring at them on the screen. I once wrote that a person should do at least one thing in her life that takes her own breath away. Ok, I thought, this is mine.
When I was struck by the idea to write this novel, it wasn’t like a tap on the shoulder. It was a knock-the-breath-out-of-you feeling. It set off a creative storm inside me. My imagination lit up. I could picture her—tall, dark hair, large brooding eyes. A name came—Ana. The nickname, Little Thunder, would come later and it would suggest a great deal about her. Though I felt instantly compelled to write her story. I wasn’t immune to a trepidation or two about how some might react to my premise. I once stenciled the words, “Writing is an act of courage” on the stairwell that led to my writing study. Writing is always that. It’s a series of small daily braveries. Sometimes a giant leap.
I don’t know if, at some point in his life, Jesus had a wife. But believing it was never the point. It was imagining it that mattered to me. I think there’s a need in the human psyche to imagine this missing wife. In a way she symbolizes the missing feminine within religion. To imagine Ana is to evoke the question of how the world might’ve been different if Jesus had had a wif. To imagine her is to celebrate women’s voices and stories. It allows us to reinvent the past in order to dream a new future.