Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I was introduced to The Red Tent by Anita Diamant through the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, and after a few friends gushed over the book, I knew I simply had to start reading it asap. I’m glad I did.

The Red Tent by Anita DiamantThe book tells the fictional autobiographical story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, from the book of Genesis. To be honest, I was unfamiliar with Dinah’s story as I began to read this book, and I think not having prior knowledge was beneficial. I had no preconceived notions of what this story should be or how it should turn out.

The Red Tent begins before Dinah is yet born, introducing her father and her four mothers, and thus setting the stage for the world into which Dinah (and the reader) are welcomed. Soon, Dinah is joining her mothers and the women of her family in the red tent, where she learns about motherhood, being a woman, and eventually, the art of midwifery.

Eventually, Dinah leaves her family to join with her husband, and the events that follow are so shocking and so heart wrenching that, at times, it feels as if it might be difficult to continue reading. But do. Don’t stop. The things ahead for Dinah are great, and it’s fantastic to follow her on her emotional journey as it comes full circle.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: Why You Should Read

The Red Tent - 20th Anniversary Edition: A NovelThe Red Tent – 20th Anniversary Edition: A NovelFive Reasons Women Should Read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant:

1. The emotional journey Dinah goes on will speak to your soul.
2. The universal truths Dinah experiences reach across time and boundaries.
3. The experience of Dinah gives a better understanding to motherhood.
4. The story will help you gain a better understanding of what it means to be a woman.
5. The historical perspective will help you to understand what life may have been like for a woman during biblical times.

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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: Dinah’s Story Speaks to Motherhood

This is a powerful story, no doubt, but as a mother, it touches a nerve so deep that I have a hard time putting my feelings into words. As a midwife, Dinah is fortunate to watch a similar miracle—the miracle of birth and the strength of mothers—time and time again. One of my favorite quotes from the book reflected Dinah’s own feelings on becoming a mother as she welcomed her own son into the world. From page 224:

“Why had no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test? Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers? But of course, there is no way to tell this or to hear it.”

Throughout the story, Dinah’s midwifery skills seem to give her a wisdom that is at once relatable and to be respected. By the time the story ends, it’s obvious that Dinah has lived a full, eventful and fulfilling life. The character of Dinah understands the world in a way that, perhaps, many of us have not yet come to understand. Dinah lives in a different time and a different place, but her lessons and her feelings are universal.

In fact, at the end of the story, Diamant shares the following email in her author’s note:

“I recently finished your book, The Red Tent, and as a 16-year-old, I have to say you’ve opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about life as a woman, a sister, a daughter, and hopefully, a wife and mother… Your story…connects me to some roots, and I feel a strength coming from the millions of women before me who have experienced and survived adversity, made mistakes, and still live their lives despite it…”

Of course, after finishing The Red Tent, I looked up the biblical story of Dinah online, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was, of course, more bare bones than the story in this book. Based on the surface reading I did, I was impressed that Anita Diamant had done such a wonderful job of sucking the reader into Dinah’s world and making Dinah such a real character.

After I pulled out my Bible and read the chapters related to The Red Tent (Genesis 29-34) and was once again impressed by Diamant’s talent and abilities. It just goes to show that some truths — a mother’s love for her children, for example — transcend time.

I definitely would recommend The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. (It’s also been made into a Lifetime TV series, released in 2015.)

 

The Red Tent - 20th Anniversary Edition: A NovelThe Red Tent – 20th Anniversary Edition: A Novel

The Red TentThe Red Tent

The Red Tent
Anita Diamant
Picador
1997
321

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