by Mesu AndrewsSeries: The Egyptian Chronicles
Published by WaterBrook & Multnomah
Publication Date May 24, 2022
Genres: Biblical Fiction, Historical Fiction
Setting: Egypt Creation to the Judges
Written for: Adults
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.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
I have Mesu Andrews here today to talk about her new release, Potiphar’s Wife. I hope you enjoy learning more about it…
Congratulations on your 12th biblical fiction novel, Potiphar’s Wife! Potiphar’s wife is nameless in the Old Testament, mostly known as the deceptive woman who seduces Joseph. What inspired you to not only give Zuleika a name but also to tell her story? How did you find her name?
My favorite characters to write about are the unnamed or under-celebrated women of the Bible. If God thought they were important enough to include in His permanent record, I think they’re important enough to research! So, my research usually begins like most people—I Google it! I was more than a little shocked to find Potiphar’s wife named in both the Quran and Ginzberg’s, Legends of the Jews (Vol. 2). Her story with Joseph in those documents bordered on comical, but I included some of the details in Potiphar’s Wife since the recounting was so similar in both Muslim and Jewish traditions.
Can you give us a brief overview of Zuleika’s journey in Potiphar’s Wife?
When an earthquake nearly destroys the Isle of Crete and kills many of those she loves, Princess Zuleika of Crete relinquishes her future as Minoan queen and travels to Egypt. Though willing to become Pharaoh’s wife if he’ll restore her homeland to its former beauty, she’s appalled when Egypt’s giant king agrees to send aid but passes her off to his best friend, the captain of his royal bodyguard. Potiphar, too, is displeased. As a lifelong soldier and contented bachelor, he’s offended when Zully makes it clear she’s humiliated by a husband with no royal title. In Egypt’s cauldron of political turmoil, Zully’s childhood friend finds his way to Potiphar’s villa and inserts himself into her life—but is he the savior she needs? Her longing for home and what might have been become her only focus, blinding her to the good gifts Elohim has given her. Zully will do anything—to anyone—to return to Crete, and it costs her everything.
The book also follows Zuleika’s maid, Ahira, the biblical hero, Joseph, and Zuleika’s husband, Potiphar. Which character do you connect with the most?
I LOVE Ahira. She’s the one I found myself rooting for as I wrote the book. Maybe she’s a little bit of a female Joseph story—but in a fictional character that I could play with a little more freely. Because Joseph is often referred to as an Old Testament Christ-figure—someone who points to Jesus’s coming through their character or storyline—I needed to be sooooo careful how I portrayed him! With Ahira, however, I could show that she was betrayed as Joseph was. She grew angry and bitter, maybe even questioned God. She’s a little ahead of Joseph in her suffering—and in her victory over it—so he learns from her on occasion. That was fun to write!
In anticipation of the Potiphar’s Wife release, you visited numerous Egypts across America. What has been your favorite memory from that journey?
It’s been fun to look for these remote places where very few people live—or even know exist. Egypt, Indiana was a vacant field (no surprise). Hubby Roy and I giggled about that since we’re both Hoosiers and both grew up next to vacant fields. Egypt, Alabama was my favorite as of this writing. Though there was no one to chat with at their community center when we arrived, we made a pitstop at the public library. The librarian was super friendly and was more than happy to fill me in on the history of their quaint little town. Their shelves had a very small Christian fiction section, so I was thrilled to donate two of my books: The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam. I’m really looking forward to our release in Memphis, Tennessee, which was named after Egypt’s ancient capital city, Memphis. We’ll also visit the suburb named, Egypt, TN. It’s always the people who make our visits fun. If you’d like to see a couple of our videos, click here.
You’re in the early stages of your next book, In Feast or Famine. What can you tell us about it?
In Feast or Famine imagines the life of Joseph’s wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera—priest of Ra at the Temple of On (Heliopolis). Asenath is another character that’s given only a quick mention in Scripture but a historical record offers significantly more story. The historical novel, Joseph and Asenath, was written in ca. 400 A.D. (yep, biblical fiction is a long-standing tradition!) by Jewish rabbis. It was then adapted by Christians and used by both traditions to show how Elohim desires every race, tribe, and tongue to worship Him.
In the ancient novel, Asenath was kept in a tower from very early in her childhood. She’d never seen a man—other than her father—until she met Joseph face-to-face. She’s a pagan priestess, as her father has taught her to be, and she must decide whether she will serve her gods or become a true wife to the handsome vizier who loves his God more than he loves her. In Feast or Famine is the first true sequel I’ve ever written and will continue Joseph’s story from Potiphar’s Wife. When Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, he’s released from prison and given a wife he doesn’t want. Sound familiar? How does a godly man handle the same situation Potiphar faced? Can he care for a pagan priest’s daughter? How does a godly man love through feast and famine?