A review by leahsbooks
The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd

DNF @ 28%.

CONTENT WARNING: forced marriage, negative representation of all Jewish characters

While I respect what the author was trying to do here, I found it especially offensive in its portrayal of Jewish characters.

The author displayed a stunning lack of sensitivity in how the Jewish characters were portrayed - they were rich, manipulative, and greedy, without fail. Ana's father traded his daughter to achieve financial goals, and his brother Haran was rich and cruel, who scammed his own brother to increase his own financial gain. They had no redeeming characteristics at any point. Ana's mother was manipulative, constantly scheming to get her way. 

"From my mother I'd learned the skills of deception. I'd secreted my womanhood, hidden my incantation bowl, buried my writings, and feigned reasons to meet Jesus in the cave, but it was Father who'd shown me how to strike a despicable bargain."

In addition, while there's clearly a lot of research that went into the creation of this book, apparently not enough of it went into researching Jewish customs or history. Because there were a stunning number of issues that I noticed in the section that I read. The first thing I caught was that more than half of the Jewish months were spelled incorrectly. Shebat is actually Shevat, Tebet is actually Tevet, and Ab is actually Av. But even more disturbing was the completely incorrect and misleading views on rape that the author chose to attribute to Jewish beliefs. In Judaism, even in biblical times, rape has always been viewed as a crime and not something that brings punishment upon the woman. In this book, however, the author has decided to completely change that when a soldier rapes a side character:

"'She was distraught, and I'm sorry for her, but she shamed herself. She brought dishonor to her father and to her betrothed, who will surely divorce her now.'"

Instead of seeking justice, everyone around them blames the victim herself and then ... her father CUTS OUT HER TONGUE as punishment for saying that she was raped. What the actual F? 

It was very clear that the story was written by a Christian with limited understanding of Jewish religion, culture, and beliefs. When she mentioned: "This I'd heard of-not the hymn, but Inanna the Goddess, queen of heaven, and Yahweh's adversary." Literally no Jewish person ever says "Yahweh," even in those times. We also wouldn't believe that God has any adversaries, because the central belief of Judaism is the presence of ONE GOD. You can hear stories about goddesses, but they aren't part of the belief system and therefore wouldn't be an "adversary" or competition of any sort. Yet another inaccuracy that I found was the use of mamzers:

"Mamzers were of all varieties-bastards, harlots, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, necromancers, beggars, lepers, divorced women, cast-out widows, the unclean, the destitute, those possessed of devils, Gentiles-all of them shunned accordingly."

The actual definition of a mamzer is "a child born of a forbidden sexual union," such as a child born of incest or adultery. That's it. Nothing to do with bastards, harlots, or any of the other things listed above. I'm not even sure why Gentiles were included in that list anyway, since Jewish people and Gentiles live side by side, often working together in the same house? It just seems like it was adding fuel to the fire. 

I understand that the ideal audience of the story is probably not Jewish readers, but seriously, could SMK not have tried to portray at least ONE Jewish character as a decent human being? Ultimately, I couldn't get past all these constant digs at Jewish people, the historical inaccuracies, and how slow-moving and utterly boring the story was.

Expand filter menu Content Warnings