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Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Advent Calendar (Day Four) - "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant

Since it's the fourth day of my Book Advent Calendar, we are at the letter "D" and I've chosen a book by Anita Diamant.  Almost exactly a year ago, I watched the two-part miniseries based on this bestseller.  
Day Four:  The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
4 Stars
 
The story is narrated by Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and his first wife Leah.  Dinah tells the stories of her four mothers (Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah) and their children, all sons.  The novel begins with her birth and childhood in Mesopotamia and continues through her years in Canaan and old age in Egypt. 

Dinah is mentioned in the Bible, very briefly, so the author fleshed out her story.  The focus is almost entirely on the women; the men are almost incidental.  The men intrude as catalysts in the women’s lived, but they have little to contribute to the power of the women.

The title refers to the place where the women retreat once a month at the time of the dark moon when women bleed.  There the women share their secrets and stories and take respite from the hardships of their everyday lives.  Women are not seen as victims of their bodies; their bodies are the givers of life.  Sex and biology are treated in a way that is tender, natural, and sacred.

The book is set in the time before monotheism had taken hold as the dominant religion.  Jacob, his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham were the founders of the faith that would spread monotheism but the women they married were from polytheistic tribes and they carried these beliefs with them.  Diamant also avoids the urge to have her women adopt modern attitudes not in keeping with tradition.

This is an enjoyable portrait of a Biblical woman and the life that she might have lived.