I’m a good little Catholic girl. I went to church every Sunday, CCD once a week, and did bible study in high school, yet my Old Testament knowledge is spotty at best. I think Catholics sort of like to skip the whole cranky God part, and get right to the part where that same God comes down to save and redeem us sinful humans. There is also the fact that the Old Testament is so much longer than the new (plus the New Testament is basically four different versions of the same basic story). When I started The Red Tent with my mother-daughter book club, I figured that as the only Catholics in the group, we would be at a distinct advantage. In some ways we were, although I would still suggest that anyone reading The Red Tent and wishing to contextualize the characters should do a quick skim of the OT.
It is also possible to read The Red Tent as its own piece of historical fiction, ignoring the fact that the characters did previously exist in THE book. The only disadvantage to reading it this way is there ceases to be a central plot line. Without the framework of the bible, The Red Tent can take on a meandering and pointless gait. The thing that sets this book apart is its focus on early women and their traditions. The book is very well researched, and does create a feeling of sisterhood and solidarity with the gentler gender. If you are a man reading The Red Tent, you may not get such a taste of the warm-fuzzies. Though the men are not villainized, the historical truths of men’s treatment of women in this time period is not one of the happier chapters in the battle of the sexes. The Red Tent is a beautifully written book which gives voice to the silent women of the Old Testament.