This biblical story highlights the strength and reliance of women as they experience friendship, love, hope, birth, misfortune, abuse and death through generations. The epic tale is told by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob (sister of Joseph), and spans her lifetime. As the sole daughter in a large family, Dinah is allowed to share time with her mothers and aunts within the red tent where the women pass their time of menstruation together, sharing fellowship, gossip, secrets and passing down the stories of their family history. She learns the art of midwifery and her skill becomes well known and sought out by others in a time where childbirth often resulted in death.
Although Dinah grows up loved by her mother and aunts, as she becomes a woman, her life enters turmoil due to the greed and hateful attitudes of her older brothers. She falls in love and the consummation of this relationship sparks dramatic violence, murder and deceit. From this passion, she births a son who she must share with his more powerful grandmother.
As she ages, she finds support and strength through another woman, in her friendship with a fellow midwife named Meryt. With encouragement from her friend she marries again, finding mature love with Benia. Through coincidence, her son requests her presence at the birth of his employer’s son. While attending this birth, she discovers that the father is her long-lost brother, Joseph connecting her with the past as she learns what has happened to her birth family during her absence.
At first, I had to keep referring to the family tree page to understand the relationships of this family since Jacob had numerous wives and children. As the story unfolded, it was difficult to put down. It makes the reader consider the importance of taking time to share family history and to reflect on the quiet strength of the women, in a time where woman had little choice. It celebrates the power of being a woman and engages the reader in a way that this book should spark interesting discussion at my next book club meeting.