Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Report

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is a fictional interpretation of Genesis 34 – particularly the story of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter.

In the Bible, the story goes that Dinah was raped and afterward, her brothers decided to take revenge on her attacker and murder him (and much of the rest of the village).

But as the Biblical story goes, Shechem (the guy who raped Dinah) was in love with her and wanted her to be his wife. He sent his father to speak to her father and offer him whatever he wanted if only she could be his wife. Here’s the kicker – Dinah’s family told him that if he and all of her family and everyone in the village would be circumcised, they would agree to the marriage. They agreed. Did you get that? Grown men agreed to be circumcised so that Shechem and Dinah could be together. And once they had gone home and fulfilled their obligation and all of the men were incapacitated with pain, Dinah’s brothers went to the town and slaughtered them all and took Dinah back home.

In The Red Tent, the author has asserted that “rape” in this case isn’t what modern people think rape is. In this case, rape is a consensual relationship that was not consummated by going through the proper social rituals of the time. For instance, typically the fathers would have discussed their childrens’ relationship and agreed on a dowry, etc. before the children consummated their relationship. In this case, the author asserts that Dinah and Shechem were madly in love with one another and just when they thought their parents had reached an agreement about their marriage, Dinah’s brothers came and murdered Shechem while he was asleep in Dinah’s arms.

The Bible never says much about Dinah. It doesn’t give us any ideas about what she was feeling, so The Red Tent latches on to that idea and tells the story through Dinah’s eyes.

It is not a page turner. It takes patience. My book group’s reaction was split. Some couldn’t even get past the first chapter, but some loved it.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Genre: Young Adult

Burned tells the story of a teenaged girl growing up in a very strict Mormon home. As the child of an alcoholic/abusive father and a mother who has baby after baby and passes them off to her older children to take care of, Pattyn has started questioning her family’s religious beliefs. She believes that she must have a purpose other than finding a good LDS husband and having babies.

As she starts to question and rebel, her family becomes livid and sends her to spend the summer with her aunt. Though this is meant to be punishment, Pattyn finds freedom at her aunt’s house. And she falls in love with a non-Mormon, putting her and her love interest’s life in danger if her father ever finds out.

This is written very interestingly. Each page reads like poetry though it is prose. One of the things I found most interesting about the book was the side story of "downwinders" in Nevada (here's a snippet of what Wikipedia has to say on the topic)

In the 1950s, people who lived in the vicinity of the NTS were encouraged to sit outside and watch the mushroom clouds that were created by nuclear bomb explosions. Many were given radiation badges to wear on their clothes, which were later collected by the Atomic Energy Commission to gather data about radiation levels.

I look forward to reading more of this author's work.

Terra Infirma by Rodger Kamenetz

Terra Infirma is a memoir about the author and his relationship with his mother. Rodger’s mother never told the family anything about her past. She never even mentioned his grandparents. She only started discussing her life as she laid on her death bed. As she does so, the author tries to piece together how events in her past made her into the mother he knew – sometimes abusive and unpredictable, but still someone he loved and sought approval from.

This is written beautifully and it’s a quick read.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

Typical Hiaasen humor. This was actually an abridged audio version (I didn't realize it was abridged until after I had already checked it out from the library, but it's not as if you couldn't cut a lot out of Hiassen's books and still get the whole story so I wasn't too concerned.)

Description from the back of the book:

Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn’t know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and now he’s found a way–doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn’t die in the fall.

Clinging blindly to a bale of Jamaican pot, Joey Perrone is plucked from the ocean by former cop and current loner Mick Stranahan. Instead of rushing to the police and reporting her husband’s crime, Joey decides to stay dead and (with Mick’s help) screw with Chaz until he screws himself.

As Joey haunts and taunts her homicidal husband, as Chaz’s cold-blooded cohorts in pollution grow uneasy about his ineptitude and increasingly erratic behavior, as Mick Stranahan discovers that six failed marriages and years of island solitude haven’t killed the reckless romantic in him, we’re taken on a hilarious, full-throttle, pure Hiaasen ride through the warped politics and mayhem of the human environment, and the human heart.


SmallWorld at Home said...

Thanks for letting me know about Joshilyn Jackson's blog! Very enjoyable.

I loved The Red Tent. I wasn't crazy about the last 1/4th but I loved the majority of it. Great book club book.

mee said...

Thanks for visiting! Red tent has been on my wish list for a while. But your review left me in doubts for a bit, because it sounds like a heavy read. Perhaps I just need to find the right mood for it.