Book Review: The Red Tent

Anita Diamant took a couple of lines from the Book of Genesis mentioning Dinah and expounded upon it, giving us a very intricate tale of Dinah’s four mothers (Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah – all wives to Jacob) and her own story. Selina who nominated the book for book club promised us it was not a ‘religious’ book. Upon finishing the book, I do have to agree with her that it is not a ‘religious’ book. Rather, a piece of fiction, inspired by a few lines in the bible and set during biblical times. However, I can imagine some religious people taking it too seriously and maybe opining that Diamant blasphemously manipulated sacred text that should be left untouched. I’m not one of those people and thus continue on a rather favorable review.

The entire novel is written in Dinah’s perspective. The first part of the book focuses on the stories of all of Jacob’s wives and Dinah’s mother. Most of her observations of her mothers occurred under the Red Tent which is the tent that all the women stay in when they are menstruating, giving birth, or are suffering from ailments. The next 2/3’s focused on her. It’s a tale of unbelievable, inhumane family betrayals. In the bible, it’s suggested that Dinah was raped and avenged by her brothers. Red Tent depicted a different story. I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, I’m usually not one for happy endings as I find it too easy but in Dinah’s story, her life was so atrocious that aside from dying, there was no other way to go but a little up.

Plot aside, Diamant breathed copious doses of conviction, strength, sensuality, and even guile into her women. I love that. It does get a little weird and awkward under the Red Tent so that’s my little warning for you. I wonder what inspired Diamant to write this story. She’s a Jewish author whose other books include Living a Jewish Life, How to Raise a Jewish Child, The New Jewish Wedding, The New Jewish Baby Book. Did she have some kind of agenda or was she just following her Muse? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I didn’t judge this book by the underwhelming book cover.