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BOOK CLUB BUNDLES

Hi, I’m Lauren. The Library will provide books for your book club. Our book club bundles include 10 copies of the same title, along with a discussion guide. Check out available bundles when visiting the Library, or fill out the form below! Patrons can reserve book club bundles up to six months in advance. Our book club bundles are stored on the second floor for the public to browse and check out. Contact us at bookclub@gpld.org or call us at 630-232-0780 if you have questions.


The Book of Longings

by Sue Monk Kidd

GENRE: Historical Fiction

A fictionalized account of an unknown aspect of Jesus Christ’s life. Told from the perspective of Ana, a strong-minded, intelligent young woman, this unusual novel explores the possibility of Jesus following in Jewish tradition and eventually marrying.

Download Discussion Guide

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author biography

Sue Monk Kidd was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia, a place that deeply influenced the writing of her first novel The Secret Life of Bees. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University and Anderson College, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers conferences.  In 2016, TCU conferred on her an honorary doctor of letters degree.

Her book When the Heart Waits, published by Harper SanFrancisco in 1990 has become a touchstone on contemplative spirituality. In 1996, Harper published The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, describing Kidd’s journey into feminist theology, a memoir that had a groundbreaking effect within religious circles.

In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction. Her short stories appeared in TriQuarterly, Nimrod, and other literary journals and received a Katherine Anne Porter award and citations in Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards. For over a decade, the novel was produced on stage by The American Place Theater, and in 2008 it was adapted into a movie by Fox Searchlight, which won the People’s Choice award for best movie and the NAACP Image award for best picture. The 2019 off-broadway production at The Atlantic Theater won the AUDELCO VIV award for best musical. The novel is taught widely in middle school, high school, and college classrooms.

Kidd’s second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold well over a million copies since its publication by Viking in 2005, reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and remaining on the hardcover and paperback lists for nine months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, translated into 24 languages, and made into a television movie by Lifetime.

The spiritual essays, meditations, and inspirational stories Kidd wrote in her thirties were collected into a single volume, Firstlight: The Early Inspiration Writings and published by Guideposts Books in 2006 and Penguin in 2007.

After traveling with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, to sacred sites in Greece, Turkey, and France, Kidd and Taylor co-authored a memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story. Published by Viking in 2009, it appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times list and has been published in several languages.

The Invention of Wings, Kidd’s third novel was published in 2014 by Viking. It debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list where it spent a total of 9 months. It has sold over a million copies and been translated into over 20+ languages thus far. The novel has won several literary awards, including the Florida Book of Year Award and the SIBA Book Award.  It was also nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Kidd’s much anticipated fourth novel, The Book of Longings, was published on April 21, 2020 to widespread critical and reader acclaim. It immediately landed at the top of the bestseller lists, reaching #5 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction list, #1 on the IndieBound bestseller list, and #2 on the Associated Press bestseller List. The novel was a Book-of-the-Month Selection, Heather’s Pick (Indigo Books) in Canada, and Australian Women’s Day Great Read Pick. It has been translated into 17 languages thus far.

Kidd serves on the Writers Council for Poets & Writers, Inc.  She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Sandy, and dog, Barney.  - Author's website

More titles by this author.

reviews

Booklist

Historical novelists build their works around recorded history, creatively inventing characters and scenarios to fill liminal spaces. Along these lines, in a daring what-if, Kidd (The Invention of Wings, 2014) imagines Jesus Christ’s missing years and speculates that he followed Jewish tradition and therefore was married. The daughter of Herod Antipas’ head scribe, Ana, narrates her engrossing, briskly paced story in an appealing voice. Well-educated and impetuous, she loves to write, learns about women’s secret histories from her courageous aunt Yaltha, and chafes against gender restrictions. Shared intellectual curiosity and mutual respect mark her marriage to Jesus, a caring, devout stonemason who champions the downtrodden, and Kidd warmly presents their relationship. When God calls Jesus, however, Ana must, sadly, be left behind. From wealthy Sepphoris to humble Nazareth to Alexandria and beyond, Kidd describes a first-century world full of political and religious tensions, which feels simultaneously ancient and freshly awake with spiritual possibility. Ana’s feminist beliefs and pursuits may stretch credulity at times, but the message about the importance of kindness and the power of women’s voices should resonate strongly with today’s readers. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Kidd is a library favorite, and the bold subject of this novel will increase buzz tenfold. -- Sarah Johnson (Reviewed 2/15/2020) (Booklist, vol 116, number 12, p26).

Kirkus Reviews

In Kidd's (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write. Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she's instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas' concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the  situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother's humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana's practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus' active ministry begins—what will Ana's role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel's momentum. A daring concept not so daringly developed. (Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2020).

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