The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a fictional interpretation of a biblical family. Narrated by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and sister to his 12 sons, whose life is barely mentioned in the Book of Genesis, it is rich in stories and characters.
Vividly bringing the ancient world to life, The Red Tent is filled with dust and shepherds and caravans and slaves. Diamant shares the joys, sorrows, and traditions of women in the world of the red tent, a haven during their menses, illnesses, and childbirth.
Dinah is loved by her four mothers, sister-wives Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah; strong women who pass down all their secrets, talents, stories, and feminine gifts to her, along with the religious and sexual practices of the tribe. Like her beautiful mother-aunt Rachel, she learns the skill of midwifery, which is instrumental to her future. Her destiny is forever changed while attending the birth of a child in the king’s house, where she falls in love with Shalem, the prince. This meeting sets into motion the events that shatter and scatter Dinah’s family, bringing shame to Jacob’s tribe but also bringing her great joy through her son, who will be raised as a prince in Egypt.
The Red Tent shows how vital female relationships and family traditions are to women, how much they enrich our lives. Diamant’s words paint a brilliantly imagined, emotionally lush world, a fascinating portrait of biblical women and the lives they might have lived.
This novel was such a satisfying read; I feel like I’ve just finished a 6 course feast after weeks of eating nothing but snacks. In the 12 years since it first came out it has become a book club favorite, so I let The Red Tent sit on my shelf for two years, hoping my book club would pick it. So far they haven’t, but I didn’t want to wait any longer.
This is historical fiction at it’s very best. I would give The Red Tent my highest recommendation. I loved it.
And is it just me, or does Anita Diamant look an awful lot like Ellen Degeneres? I wonder if she’s funny..
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