3 sentences into this book and I shouted to my hubby in the next room– “okay, I’m not disappointed.” My son looked at the cover and said — “Look Mom –it’s you!” I thought the woman featured on the cover kinda looked like a guy. But, Dougie assured me that she was me. It’s no wonder that after 180 pages, I fell asleep with my ear crunched into the book and dreamt of a time when my son was my nephew — and I struggled to get him to remember me as his mother.
“The Red Tent” is the story of Dinah — sister of Joseph (as in Joseph and the Amazing technicolor Dreamcoat, Joseph). It’s biblical fiction in all its flowery language and detail.
Before reading it, I had my own preconceived notions of men with multiple wives, arranged marriages, dowrys, and oppression of the female. Fiction or not — being able to see a female perspective of old testament days was pretty fascinating.
She’s a slow writer, like I am a slow eater — making sure every word is just perfect before spilling the beans. Every word is so beautiful, but there’s not a lot of action happening. I got a little bored but only a little. It’s hard for me to read fiction because I want so much from it. I want crazy words to pop out of the air. I want risks and twists and magic. I want stuff to happen in fiction that you wouldn’t so much want to happen or believe could happen in real life.
I thought about how difficult it is to edit my own chapters when I love the words, but they simply don’t move the story forward. Still this book feels like a giant glossy love letter, and if you are a romantic — you will love it. If it were to be edited to satisfy my tastes, it would completely disrupt the flow that fits so perfectly with the era she is writing about.
Perhaps now, I will value the whole “slowing down” thing in my own work, and see where that takes me.
I can’t spoil endings or too much detail, but I will tell you that the red tent is where the women hang. They go there to rest on moon days, to take care of the sick and nurse babies. This is where the women tell secrets and share their stories. Amongst 4 wives, 1 husband and 12 sons– there was only 1 daughter, and she is Dinah — and so Dinah carries the memories of her mother (Leah) and her “mother aunties” (her mother’s sisters and the other wives of Jacob, who was also their cousin).
There is some excitement. You do get to hear Dinah’s version of what happened to her brother Joseph. And more. But, I won’t spoil it.