‘Mara: Daughter of the Nile’ (Review)

Mara: Daughter of the Nile book review

Sheftu was so amazed at seeing the same slave girl for the fourth time that day – and here on this ship, of all unlikely places – that at first he could say nothing at all. Then he noticed her strong, deep breathing, her narrowed eyes and her quivering readiness for flight, and realized that he had startled her badly. What a wild thing she was! Her whole attitude spoke more clear than words of the life she must have led.”

This book, “Mara: Daughter of the Nile” by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, is a great resource in so many ways! I recommend it highly for the Dialectic stage in your child’s sex education, where you can tackle more complex subjects as you, the parent, decide whether your child is ready for them.

While I don’t agree with everything in the book, I would argue that the good far outweighs the bad as you practice discernment with your child in this topic.

sharing your love story with your children

Historical context

This book is a fictional account focusing on the adventures of Mara, a slave girl in Egypt who soon finds herself a spy during the reign of Hatshepsut. Without giving too much away, she needs to balance a web of interlocking factions and political conflicts while still maintaining her position of informant as much as possible. All sorts of dangerous intrigues abound!

The storytelling is superb, and I found myself caring deeply for all the main characters despite (or perhaps because of?) all their mutual missteps and misunderstandings. Mara is fiercely independent but jaded because of the many abuses and neglect suffered in her childhood. Almost instantly, the reader is cheering for her as the familiar underdog whom we can all champion and support.

Likewise, Sheftu is a well-rounded character who can appear callous and indifferent because of his exalted status, yet we catch glimpses of his compassion to others that endear us to him almost immediately.

Some thoughts

While the romantic tension is high and detailed throughout the storyline, there are no explicit sexual scenes in the book beyond kissing.

You may feel a little self-conscious reading this aloud to your children if they’re younger (I’m thinking in the pre-teen phase), but I encourage you to push ahead even if you feel uncomfortable at first. Your children are most likely going to be fascinated!

powerful sex ed tips

They need to know that you are open and transparent with them about guy-girl relationships, and sometimes reading an exciting book aloud is easier than just broaching the subject like this: “One day you’re going to start getting interested in the opposite sex.”

I personally find it sad when talking to other Christians who say they never felt comfortable talking with their parents about sexual matters because their parents never started the conversations with them. Furthermore, some of them said they could hardly imagine their parents ever being attracted to each other in that way!

As parents, we need to be setting the example to our children that sexual attraction is a beautiful gift from God that should be enjoyed and cherished throughout our married lives. One easy way to do this is to share your own love story with your children – multiple times! Let it be a tale that they grow up hearing over and over again, with more details as needed along the way.

See some common challenges to a Christian sex education here.

Discussion points

Without giving away too much of the plot, here are a number of fantastic discussion points that I think you could use when discussing this book with your children:

  • “Look out for yourself, and let others do the same.” This is Mara’s slogan for much of the book – looking out for oneself only, and playing both sides of a deep political plot for her own gain. But ultimately, Mara cannot bring herself to live such a lifestyle of putting herself first. She must choose which side to support – even if that means death for herself. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)
  • Pity and compassion. These themes run deep throughout the book as Mara pities a “barbarian” Canaanite princess, Inanni, who is homesick and longing for her brothers after she is called to Egypt. Sheftu pities Mara even as he tries to maintain a facade of indifference toward her well-being. In the end, these threads of compassion for others may mean the difference between life and death. But more importantly, it shows how our human capacity for compassion can redeem even terrible situations and improve outcomes for those we love.
  • “Every man has his price.” So thinks Sheftu for much of the story as he turns to one bribe after another to secure the “loyalty” of his fellow elites for the planned overthrow of Hatshepsut: “He no longer believed, even in his heart, that there lived man or woman gold could not buy. Only their prices differed.” But what price will be high enough to ensure loyalty, especially if staying loyal means suffering through disgrace, torture, or even execution? As Christians, we need to remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our redemption and we belong to Him only: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)
  • “In your life you have had neither friends nor kin.” I found this remark coming from Inanni, the Canaanite princess, strangely poignant in her description of Mara, who is the quintessential orphan cast adrift in a cruel world and forced to fend for herself. As a result, Mara finds it hard to trust others and depend on them for her needs. Oftentimes we have friends and kin to help see us through troubles and difficulties. For the Christian, however, our ultimate “friends” and “kin” are in the Body of Christ, the Church. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, ESV)

I’m sure you will also be able to find fresh “talking points” from this book when you read it with your children. These are simply to get you started. And it will give you a whole new perspective on ancient history and how exciting life could have been back then!

I hope this review gives you some fresh insights and inspiration in how to incorporate sex education with your children in a holistic, literature-focused approach. Let me know if there’s a specific resource you’d like me to review next!

By Shanxi

Providing the foundation for healthy, lively & even fun (gasp!) discussions of human sexuality from a Biblical perspective. Sex education made simple. Started by homeschool families, for homeschool families.


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