The tale of Joseph is one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. One of twelve sons of Jacob and his father’s favorite, his jealous brothers decide to kill him but at the last minute throw him into a pit instead and leave him for dead, leading Jacob to believe he has been killed by wild beasts.
As The Eleventh Brother: A Novel of Joseph in Egypt by Rachel K. Wilcox opens, Joseph, known in Egypt as Zaphenath is Vizier to the Pharaoh Senuset and his most trusted adviser. It is during the time of the seven years of famine; a band of ten foreign men come seeking grain from the Egyptian storehouse. Joseph recognizes them as his brothers, though they do not recognize him.
And from there the story is told in narrative going forward, interspersed with flashbacks that help us to understand Joseph’s early life, his time in Egypt and the events that shaped him and helped him reach his present life.
While I do not generally read a lot of historical fiction, this book captured my attention as the focus was more on the people and the story than on constantly reminding the reader of its historical setting. That’s not to say that the historical details aren’t rich and (at least as far as I can tell) accurate. The settings and culture are well-researched. The characters are three-dimensional and real and the author does not assume her readers are well-versed in the story of Joseph and his brothers.
As I read I felt transported to life in ancient Egypt. For lack of a better explanation, I am a visual reader and with well-written books, I feel like I can actually see the scene, the setting and the characters as I read. The Eleventh Brother is one of those books.
This is an excellent debut novel by Rachel Wilcox. Whether it is another story drawn from the Bible or another topic, I will be looking forward to her next book.
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