Michelle's Reviews > The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
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Jun 27, 09

Read in June, 2009


A good book teaches a good lesson.

And of all the things to gather from The Red Tent by Anita Diamont, this lesson comes inferentially through a stunningly written book about a strong and remarkable woman, Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, son of Rebecca and Issac, son of Abram.

The story begins by unraveling the history and background of Dinah's "mothers," her biological mother, Leah, and her sisters, (Dinah's aunts,) Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah because, "If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter."

Dinah, the only girl, revels in being doted on by her mothers and is folded into their tightly woven sisterhood. But she is, alas a daughter and realizes this when her parents ruminate over Leah's step-mother, Ruti, "There was no room for me between them, no need for me. My mother's eyes were full of Jacob. I did not matter to her the way she mattered to me. I wanted to cry, but I realized that I was too old for that. I would be a woman soon and I would have to learn how to live with a divided heart."

Dinah comes of age in an age beyond her teachings. Although not allowed to speak as such, Dinah's thoughts show how enlightened she is. Her hate for Ruti's subservient ways would be something women then would not have felt.

The significance of the red tent encompasses that "secret society" we women covet. And even when the secrets are revealed, the language is one that men cannot hear. "'In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana course through us, cleansing the body of last month's death, preparing the body to receive the new month's life, women give thanks -'"

Many disappointments outline Dinah's life... the missing connection she feels with a grandmother she "imagine would understand [her:] instantly and adore [her:] above any of [her:] brothers"... the betrayal of her brothers and their viciousness... her enormous losses... but her great insight helps her to realize why they exist, "The painful things - ... seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place."

Ah, that I will remember what those knots are for.
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