"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. " -Helen Keller

Monday, May 25, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Welcome to the eighteenth tour of the Barren Bitches Book Brigade--a book club from the comfort of your own living room. Today we are discussing The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Grab a cup of coffee and, when you are done reading my review, you can hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book in this online book club: Navigating the Land of IF by our very own Melissa Ford, stirrup queen extraordinaire.

I have to be honest. When I initially picked up this book, I had to force myself to pick it up. It seemed like it was going to be an overly serious book and I just didn't think I was in the mood for something deep. But, once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. It was a phenomenal book. It took a story anyone who has been exposed to religion knows, the story of Jacob and his wives, and tells it from a totally unexpected perspective. It is quite obvious that the author put a lot of time, effort, and love into this book.

Ms. Diamant does a brilliant job of drawing us into Dinah's life and world. She includes all kinds of little details that make this trip into the past seem so real. Even if you aren't religious, take some time to read this book. It isn't preachy. Equal time is given to mentioning and discussing the other religions and beliefs of the day. But, mostly, it is a fantastic story.

Now, on to the questions...

Which character did you relate to most in the story -- Rachel, Leah or Dinah? Why?
I actually found myself relating to both Rachel and Leah. Despite my struggles with infertility, I have been blessed with many sons (3 of them) like Leah. My oldest son was downright easy to conceive and, despite some complications, was healthy at birth. My middle son was a little harder to conceive but again was born healthy and strong. And, my little one, my post IF baby, my miracle, is wonderful. However, like Rachel, I suffered loss after loss after loss while trying to conceive my youngest. The absolute heart wrenching pain she felt when she knew she was losing a baby was something I have felt. Both the blessings and the tragedy are who I am so I see myself in both of them.

"The sight of the baby in Bilpah's arms, day after day, shattered Rachel's confidence again. She was only the aunt, the bystander, the barren one." Did you find the author sympathetic or disparaging of Rachel's barren state? Did she convincingly relate the experience of being barren?
I did feel Ms. Diamant was sympathetic of Rachel's barren state. The pain and anguish one feels when you desperately want a baby and see people around you reaching that goal while you continue to fall short is dark and ugly and those are the feelings Ms. Diamant conveys. I truly identified with Rachel's descent into depression because I remember hitting the bottom of a dark, black hole during our many losses. I think the feelings are accurately and truly portrayed and it makes me wonder if either MS. Diamant or someone close to her hasn't been through a similar struggle.

The family trees shown at the beginning of the book don't include miscarriages, stillbirths, or children who died before weaning. Given the rate of infant mortality at the time, this was a logical method for "counting" children. Now that it's much more rare (but still too common) to lose children both before and after birth, at what point do you think children should be added to the official family tree? At what point should they be added to the parents' personal tally of children?
My answer to this question is purely subjective and there is no right answer. I feel a pregnancy that has reached the 20 week mark should be included on the family tree. If a child dies in utero but is delivered, this is classified as a still birth. And, if a child even lives a moment or two and then dies, of course they shoud be included. As for when a child is added to a parent's own personal tally, mine were all added the minute I got a positive pregnancy test. Most of my losses were quite early, some were even classified as chemical pregnancies. But, even though they were only little clumps of cells, I loved them for what they could become. My family tree will of course include my three wonderful boys and I intend there to be a note by my name saying 8 pregnancies lost.

9 comments:

loribeth said...

I too wondered how the author knew so much about the pain of infertility & loss. Her descriptions sounded pretty accurate to me!

Parenthood For Me said...

Thanks, Kristin!

niobe said...

I've heard so many good things about this book and your post really makes me want to read it.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I love your addition of the personal tally vs. the family tree.

Annie said...

I also felt like her description of Rachel's pain and depression was very accurate. It does make you wonder how she knows and seems to understand what it is like!

Lavender Luz said...

It's interesting that you had both the Leah and the Rachel experience.

I loved this book, too. Great review.

Julia said...

Funny how some books look intimidating and then turn out to be anything but. I've had experiences like that, though not with this book.

My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. I first read this book when pregnant, only a few months later, with my daughter. At the time, description of Rachel's miscarriages was so devastatingly and freshly real... And I hoped to keep the pregnancy I was carrying then, to escape, I thought, from that devastation. I did, for a time...

Coming2Terms said...

Cool. You answered two of my questions. Like you I wondered in Anita either had experienced infertility herself since the depth of emotions she shared were so convincingly conveyed.

As for identifying with the characters ... based on your experiences, I can see where you could relate to both. That in and of itself must have made the story fascinating to read for the memories that each character evoked.

Cassandra said...

Given that Diamant is a well-known Jewish writer, I was amazed that she talked so much about other religions, including the pagan practices of the Red Tent!