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Cheaper by the Dozen
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

The Red Tent

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant This was an engaging, absorbing, and quick read that I was surprised to find that I really liked. Historical fiction is such a gamble; you never know what you're going to get.

I've always found the story of Leah, Rachel, Jacob, and their brood to be fascinating, and I'd forgotten that this story of Dinah (Jacob and Leah's daughter) even existed in the Bible. Dinah is quite a minor character in the scope of the Old Testament, but the fact that she's mentioned at all speaks to her importance (relatively few women made the cut into the Bible).

Diamant managed to make this story dramatic without being melodramatic, sad without being tragic, and she provided enough historical/period detail to make it feel more real than the original. She also managed to write this entire book with almost no detectable project or religious persuasion, not an easy feat.

The book is extremely female-centric, to be expected, I suppose, from a book named after the menstrual tent of a tribe of desert nomads. I was surprised, and perversely pleased, to find that these characters never seem to subscribe wholly to the conversion narrative that was the flavor of this story in my childhood, church-going days. That is, Jacob's wives simply add his god to their arsenal of gods and goddesses, and when the time comes, they give all the gods their due. The way I learned it was that every person who came in contact with the nearly-angelic Jacob instantly saw the superiority of his god, and immediately left their old ones behind.

That narrative never really rang true to me, and though this story is largely imagined, I somehow feel that Jacob's wives' pragmatism is more realistic.

I found the reimagining of Dinah's rape to be fascinating, and without giving too much away, highly preferable to its predecessor as well as entirely plausible.

Recommended for a quick foray into Biblical fiction, if you're ready for a glowingly female-centric rethinking of the Bible.