The Red Tent is a beautiful story by Anita Diamant about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob who is mentioned briefly in the book of Genesis. Diamant uses ingenious poetic license to create an account of Dinah’s life anyone can only guess at. Diamant’s rich knowledge of the Torah and study of this period of time make for an authentic-feeling piece.
The book begins with the day Jacob met Rachel, her father Laban, and her sisters. Life changed from that moment on for their family and Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah eventually became the wives of Jacob. Dinah was the daughter of Leah, although all four considered her their daughter, as she considered the four of them her mothers. Dinah learned much from the four mothers (much of which is learned in the Red Tent), most importantly the duties, privileges, and curses of women, and she learned midwifery from a young age, later becoming a midwife sought after by royalty. The turning point in Dinah’s life was a violent tragedy, as indicated in Genesis. The book goes on with Dinah’s story as she becomes another person in a foreign land, refusing to revive the memory of her devastation. She eventually travels back to her homeland and allows the wounds of her past to finally heal.
There are many figures of the Bible I find intriguing, and yet so many we have but just a few small details about, so a book like this is of much value to me when a talented writer can make a mysterious figure come alive in such a way that Diamant does. It’s no wonder that this book is a New York Times Bestseller. The Red Tent is opulent with spirit and a wonderful story all around about women mentoring women and how far that can go to sustain life and strength.