The first section of the novel addresses the many traditions in early biblical history as imagined and embellished upon by Anita Diamant focusing on four sisters. The reader is introduced to the feminine sanctuary, the "Red Tent", a major component of the story. The sisters interactions within the tent manifest an intense competitive culture and a desire for the role of head wife to the husband they all share, Jacob. .
The story is told second hand by a daughter of one of the four sisters. She tells the story vividly, presenting the reader with a detailed account of the women's feelings, as well as the events that shape their feelings. At times it seems that the stories she learns of are not meant for the ears of such a young child, however she is the only daughter and therefore must learn of the families history. "They traded secrets like bracelets, and these were handed down to me the only surviving girl. They told me things I was too young to hear. They held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember," says Dinah.
She begins the story with a vibrant description of the four sisters, their physical description, smell, attitude, and how they are perceived in their close-knit society. The language the author uses is very soft and poetic. An example on page 9 is the describing of Rachel's natural odor. "Rachel smelled like water. Really! Wherever my aunt walked, there was the scent of fresh water. It was an impossible smell, green and delightful and in those hills the smell of life and wealth.".
Following more description of the setting, Dinah goes on to reveal the start of the adolescent women's courting experience. Rachel, the most strikingly beautiful of the sisters comes in contact with an eligible young bachelor named Jacob, briefly resting at the local well. Before Rachel was even able to speak of him to her sisters he appeared at Laban's door asking for a favor of hospitality.