Angela Hunt. Egypt’s Sister. Bethany House, 2017. See here to buy the book.
Egypt’s Sister is the first book of Angela Hunt’s “The
Silent Years,” which concerns the so-called “Intertestamental Period,”
the time between the Old and the New Testaments. This first book is
about Cleopatra VII, the Greek queen who ruled Egypt during the first
century B.C.E. The next book, apparently, will be about the Maccabean
Chava is a Hebrew in Alexandria, Egypt. Her father, Daniel, is a
royal tutor and the author of the “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs”
(not in real life, but in this story). As a child and an adolescent,
Chava is friends with an Egyptian princess named Urbi, who will become
Queen Cleopatra. Chava has a vision in which God tells her that her
friendship with Urbi rests in God’s hands, that Chava will be with Urbi
on Urbi’s happiest and last days, and that Chava will know herself and
will bless Urbi. Chava interprets that to mean that she (Chava) is to
serve Cleopatra rather than get married and have children, a view with
which her father Daniel disagrees.
Well, not to give away any spoilers, but Chava’s interpretation of
the vision gets disrupted by real life. I mean Radically disrupted.
Chava’s charmed life comes to an end. The story took a Joseph (from the
Bible) and a Ben Hur sort of turn. Cleopatra is still looming
in the background, however, and Chava’s destiny will intersect with
that of her childhood friend.
A salient aspect of this book is that it contains a lot of information. To quote Angela Hunt, “Egypt’s Sister
is one of the most difficult books I have ever written, not because I
lacked material, but because I had so much.” There is, of course, the
story of Cleopatra: her rise to power, her political struggles, and her
international intrigue. Hunt provides charming descriptions of the city
of Alexandria and the distinct elements of Alexandrian culture. She
talks about what slavery was like and how Roman society regarded slaves,
Roman views on sex and marriage, and the attempts of Jews to live
according to their laws in a world that had contrary worldviews and
The book did read like a textbook at times, but I actually liked
that, since such an approach educated me, in areas, and would probably
educate others as well. This approach did not detract from the story,
either, for Hunt struck a balance between telling and showing, and she
presented compelling historical protagonists responding emotionally and
realistically to the events of which they were a part. Moreover, Hunt
did not simply relay information but engaged it thoughtfully. Daniel,
for example, offered Cleopatra advice on political strategy when she was
learning the ropes.
Some of what Hunt presents is debated by historians. She covers some
debates in the appendix, but a debate that she did not mention concerns
whether Josephus was correct that Julius Caesar granted the Jews of
Alexandria citizenship because they helped him take over Egypt. Hunt
assumes that he was, but scholars have questioned and challenged that
Not to give away spoilers, but I am conflicted over how believable
one of the character’s motivations were when she made a specific
decision, in light of what Hunt says about ancient views on sex and
marriage. From a certain perspective, though, the rationale that Hunt
provides for that decision makes a degree of sense.
I am giving this book five stars for two reasons. First, there is
the information. I have not read every Christian work of biblical
fiction, but, of all the ones that I have read, Egypt’s Sister
is the most informative. It also has a bibliography. Second, there is
the story. The most moving theme, in my opinion, concerned how one
could be hardened by the challenges of political life, and yet still
have some humanity that remains.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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