Imagining a biblical woman and transforming what little is known into a captivating character and story is quite an undertaking. In Potiphar’s Wife, Mesu Andrews takes on a woman who is only known for evil – the unsuccessful seduction and following accusation that led to Joseph’s imprisonment – and tells a story that both repels and engages the reader.
Wed to Potiphar within weeks of her husband’s death, Princess Zuleik of Crete is then abandoned to the mercies – and lack thereof – of the Egyptian noblewomen and Potiphar’s household. But the worst betrayal comes from those Zully trusts, as plots and circumstances spiral beyond her control, leading to her eventual betrayal of Joseph and the aftermath.
“My life was a sandcastle built too close to the tide. The gods’ plaything, Ahira, and now I’m to be washed away.”Potiphar’s Wife
Being familiar with the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis, I was both skeptical and intrigued by a story with the wife of Potiphar as heroine – or perhaps, anti-heroine. From the joy, quickly shattered, in Zully’s introduction through the surprising twists and dark turns of this story, through the final redemptive scenes, Mesu Andrews’ storytelling shines. Potiphar’s Wife is a well researched and creatively imagined work of biblical fiction that, as in the Bible itself, does not shy away from the parts of the story that we might rather look away from.
This review refers to a temporary and uncorrected digital copy that I voluntarily read via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. Note that violence and lack of consent are portrayed on the page, though not in a graphic manner.
Potiphar’s Wife: A Novel by Mesu Andrews | Waterbrook, May 2022 | ebook, 416 pages
About the Book
One of the Bible’s most notorious women longs for a love she cannot have in this captivating novel from the award-winning author of Isaiah’s Legacy.
“Mesu Andrews yet again proves her mastery of weaving a rich and powerful biblical story!”—Roseanna M. White, author of A Portrait of Loyalty
Before she is Potiphar’s wife, Zuleika is the daughter of a king and the wife of a prince. She rules the isle of Crete alongside her mother in the absence of their seafaring husbands. But when tragedy nearly destroys Crete, Zuleika must sacrifice her future to save the Minoan people she loves.
Zuleika’s father believes his robust trade with Egypt will ensure Pharaoh’s obligation to marry his daughter, including a bride price hefty enough to save Crete. But Pharaoh refuses and gives her instead to Potiphar, the captain of his bodyguards: a crusty bachelor twice her age, who would rather have a new horse than a Minoan wife.
Abandoned by her father, rejected by Pharaoh, and humiliated by Potiphar’s indifference, Zuleika yearns for the homeland she adores. In the political hotbed of Egypt’s foreign dynasty, her obsession to return to Crete spirals into deception. When she betrays Joseph—her Hebrew servant with the face and body of the gods—she discovers only one love is worth risking everything.