THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant

Posted: November 12, 2013 by BA Dillon in GUEST REVIEWERS - FICTION

THE RED TENTReviewed by BA Dillon

The Red Tent is a historical fiction novel in first-person narrative that tells the story of Dinah, a daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. She is a minor character in the Bible, but this author has expanded her story. The title of the book refers to the actual tent where women of Jacob’s tribe had to take refuge while menstruating or giving birth. In this tent they would find mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters, and aunts.  In part one, Dinah recounts the marriage of her mother, Leah and father, Jacob. She also describes Leah’s sister, Rachel, and the handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah. Dinah remembers sitting in the red tent with her mother and aunts, gossiping about local events and taking care of their domestic responsibilities. There are many characters, never accounted for in the Bible, who appear in this section. According to the Bible, Genesis 34, Dinah was defiled by a prince – although in this account he genuinely loved her. Dinah’s brothers, Simon and Levi, murder the prince while he lay with her. In The Red Tent, Dinah loved the prince and willingly became his bride. She is grief-stricken by her brother’s murderous rage. After leaving her family, Dinah escapes to Egypt where she gives birth to a son. In time she finds another love, and reconciles with her brother Joseph. This book was a New York Times bestseller and is a book club favorite. Many women are touched by this story as it celebrates the women left out of Biblical history.  It celebrates mothers and daughters and the mysterious life cycle.

I was brought up a good Methodist girl. I went to church camp every summer where we spent hours studying the scripture. Unfortunately, we spent most of our study time on the New Testament, and I seriously do not remember much of the Old Testament. When one of my book club pals suggested we change things up one month, and read The Red Tent, I quickly got on board. I was enthralled by this story – and it actually had me revisiting my Bible to look for the account of Dinah. When I found Genesis 34, I was shocked that this author created an entire story from the 19 verses of Genesis 34. I’m amazed at the creativity that was built from such a bland chapter in the Old Testament. Some reviews have criticized the author by rewriting history, but I thought it was a beautiful way to give life to a character so few know about. The first third of the book was by far my favorite, as I loved the relationship Dinah had with her mother, aunts, and handmaids. The dialogue is simple, but I always want more than just a character’s thoughts. That was all that was missing for me! A great read for any book club.

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