So, there's this girl named Rachel. She's all flustered because a guy who looks dirty and has no sandals just kissed her and told her he's going to marry her.
And we're off and running.
Rachel is one of four sisters—she's the pretty one, but she's also only fourteen and hasn't had her first period yet.
Rachel's innocence is important because she's not allowed to get married until seven months after her first time bleeding.
The guy who kissed Rachel is also her cousin; his name is Jacob, and he's been banished by his father. But don't worry—he's a good-looking dude with good manners.
Rachel's father, Laban, is a pretty surly man. But he can't just dismiss Jacob, because he's his nephew.
By the way, at this time, we realize that this book is told through the first person—the narrator is the daughter of Rachel's sister, Leah.
This story is also told in the past tense, meaning all of this has already happened.
We then learn about Leah. She's not as beautiful as Rachel, but she's tall and strong. Her eyes are also very powerful, and most people look away when they see them.
Jacob looks Leah straight in the eyes, though, so she's all like, Yep, he's gonna be the father of my children one day.
Huh, this is all happening so quickly.
But first, let's learn about the third sister, named Zilpah. She's a strange one who claims that she remembers being inside the womb. She likes talking about gods and goddesses, and she has massive insomnia.
Zilpah loves predicting the future, but she's usually wrong. She's right, however, about Leah's pomegranate predicting how many kids she'll have—there were eight seeds, meaning there will be eight children.
Zilpah and Leah were totally besties as children, too.
Last but not least is Bilhah, the orphan child whose mother ran off at about the age when Bilhah could understand what was going on.
Bilhah was a sad child and was left alone. She was tiny, dark, and didn't say much.
Bilhah's first memory of Jacob is when his first child was born. It was a boy, and he loved the boy to pieces.
Hmm, this Jacob guy sounds like he's pretty important.
Anyway, Jacob is pretty much the guest of honor at the household, and Leah is sort of in love with him already, so she prepares a grand feast.
Leah gets really nervous, though, and she burns the bread and ends up making religious sacrifices so that her meal will appease him.
Jacob loves the meal—but then he gets really sick and vomits all night.
Woo, gotta love first impressions.
It's okay, though: Jacob makes a full recovery and ends up being a huge help around the household. He is a great shepherd, and he can train dogs as handily as Cesar Millan.
Oh, and Laban is pretty happy to have a male around to help with the sheep herding. Laban wanted a boy all his life, but he only had girls.
By the way, Laban's a pretty bad dude, on top of the fact that he's surly. He used to grope his female children; then Adah, his wife, beat the snot out of him when she found out. Yep, that stopped his groping.
Eventually, Jacob becomes the overseer of Laban's domain, so he and Laban negotiate the marriage to Rachel. It takes them a while, because they can't agree on a contract.
Jacob and Laban ultimately conclude that Jacob will serve Laban for a year in return for Rachel. Laban also throws in Bilhah as a possible concubine, as Rachel would be the dowered wife.
Rachel is super pumped to get married, but she still hasn't bled yet. So, basically, she can't get married yet. And she throws hissy fits.
After about nine months, Rachel finally bleeds for the first time, so all of the females take her to "the red tent," where they sing songs and tell stories.
The red tent is a place where women share religious and female experiences.
So there we have it: Rachel now has to wait seven more months to marry Jacob.