The Red Tent

The last book we read for my now defunct book club at work was not one I ever would have picked out. Let me start out by saying that I am in no way biblically driven. The few times I've done more than peruse the bible were in church when the sermons were too dry to focus on. So when someone suggested The Red Tent, which is the story of Dinah who was little more than a footnote in the Book of Genesis, I was hesitant to say the least.

Dinah is the sole daughter of Jacob and his wives Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah. Leah gave birth to her but all of the wives felt a special kinship to her. Growing up the only daughter in a family of eleven sons, Dinah is granted special permissions to spend her time in the red tent with her mothers before it is her time to do so. It's there that she learns the special trades of each of her mothers in turn.

Her father Jacob fled his family years earlier after he and his mother trick Isaac, his father, into giving Jacob the blessing that his brother Esau's birthright according to Isaac's family traditions. He trekked out to meet his uncle Laban and it was Laban's daughters he ended up marrying. Initially he was to marry Rachel, the most beautiful of Laban's daughters, but it was decided that she was too young and that Jacob would set up home there and wait until Rachel was old enough. When that time came, Zilpah scared Rachel into backing out of the wedding, convincing Leah to marry Jacob in her place.Eventually Rachel married him as well, and as part of the dowry bequeathed to Jacob Zilpah and Bilhah were given to him as Leah and Rachel's handmaids.

After years of working and accruing a wealth that Laban perceives as his own since it is his land, Jacob decides that the time has come to try to make amends with his brother Esau and set up a village all his own. So after a bitter settlement is reached between Laban and Jacob and all their wares packed, the family sets off to see Esau and find a place to settle. Around this time, Dinah is growing into the age of maturity and upon settling into their village, she meets the man she loves and marries. But their time together is all too brief.

The first part of Anita Diamant's book was interesting but slow. Parts two and three of the book really picked up the pace and had me glued to the book. As I said, this book would not have ever been one that I would have chosen, so I am really glad that someone recommended it. I would have missed out on a great tale otherwise. As soon as I finished this book, I found my bible and read the Book of Genesis to see how the story compared. I was amazed to see that a novel this rich and detail oriented was spun from little more than two paragraphs.

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Matthew said...

I'm so glad someone had finally reviewed this! I keep picking it up and putting it back on the shelf because I haven't found anyone who has actually read it. Now it's definitely going on my wish list!

Ashley said...

So worth the read!

Ali said...

I loved this book when I read it several years ago. Absolutely fascinating read.


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