Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam's secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos. Myla Goldberg's keen eye for detail brings Eliza's journey to three-dimensional life. As she rises from classroom obscurity to the blinding lights and outsized expectations of the National Bee, Eliza's small pains and large joys are finely wrought and deeply felt. Not merely a coming-of-age story, Goldberg's first novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family. The outcome of this tale is as startling and unconventional as her prose, which wields its metaphors sharply and rings with maturity. The work of a lyrical and gifted storyteller, Bee Season marks the arrival of an extraordinarily talented new writer.
The champion speller is Eliza, who was previously categorized as unremarkable
Saul gave up the swinging bachelor life for the idealized life of a Jewish scholar, getting married to attain a quiet study and a life partner that would help him concentrate and learn how to speak to God. The best he could do was attain the position of cantor, but in Eliza he sees the potential to speak to God through the way she has a kinship with the alphabet. Previously, his son Aaron, who was a wunderkind with Hebrew prayers and wanted to be a rabbi, was supposed to lead Saul to God. However, Aaron is ignored by Saul until he realizes that the divide between them is too wide, and it is too late.
When time with his father is cut off and discouraged, Aaron looks for God elsewhere than his father's study. He tries out different religions until one fits and changes his whole way of life to the point he can no longer comfortably live at home.
Meanwhile, his mother Miriam, who always had OCD-like tendencies to scrub and clean into the wee hours searches for God through perfection, or the word she prefers: "Perfectimundo." Yet her quest for perfection is hardly harmless as she is driven to steal from stores and houses in her quest to find the one object that will make her perfect. This obsession since childhood sends her down a spiral of lies and shatters her family.
The family's failure to communicate with one another is their downfall: They are so obsessed with their own personal journeys to find God, that they are strangers to one another. Their ways of trying to reach God is oftentimes fierce, and Goldberg shines in the surreal descriptions of their hallucinations. It is easy to get caught up in the Naumanns' lives, as very personal things are revealed about them so that even in their most dysfunctional moments, we feel for them. Saul is less sympathetic because his obliviousness has made his children social outcasts, but when it all comes crashing down upon him, Goldberg can make us feel his desperation and sudden realization of his action's consequences.
This is a great character study, but can be disturbing at times. Things like Miriam's decent into madness and Saul's treatment of his least-favored child of the moment can make you want to shake these people. Other scenes overwhelm , like Eliza's mystical spelling hallucinations as they get more and more intense.
An interesting book on the whole, but I don't know if I would read it again, as it is emotionally draining. I think those interested in Jewish mysticism would enjoy this best.
The heroine, Eliza, is a
A very worthwhile book, especially for a first work.
Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual
I can't say enough about this book. Beautiful, Brilliant. Captivating and interesting. Could not wait for the movie and
I especially liked this book because it taught me a little bit about the Hare Krishna, who I was always been interested in.
As Eliza racks up more spelling bee wins, the balance in the family begins to change and everyone must reevaluate their role. Her brother certainly begins to re-think his plan to become a rabbi. His father shifts his focus entirely onto his suddenly-brilliant daughter. And is so often the case, the biggest changes in the family come from out of left field, as Miriam's secrets cause the family to remake itself yet again.
I enjoyed the book, and was pleased with the writing style. Tension between the family members built nicely, and the ending was more than I expected.
"When Eliza studies, she travels through space and
But apart from the story of Eliza and her gift is the story of her family. While I am not one to desire a rainbows and sunshine ending, I had hoped to see some chance of redemption for the members of Eliza's family. However the end of the story leaves the reader with no more hope that any member of the family, with the exception of Eliza, has become less self absorbed than they were in the beginning.
I would like to say that I didn't like the book because I couldn't relate to the family, however three weeks later, I am still thinking about the book and trying to define my feelings regarding it. In my mind, that makes it a book worthy of reading.
The only part of the book I liked was the story of the mother, who has a mental disorder and is compelled to steal things. I actually found this very interesting to read about and find her journey the most enjoyable.
But besides that, there’s really no point to reading this book. Don’t waste your time.
Eliza Naumann is the odd one out in her family. Her father is a scholar and cantor at the local temple, her mother a brilliant lawyer and her brother was identified early for the Talented and Gifted program. In second grade Eliza is passed over for the TAG program by the classics educated teacher who fancies herself as working for the Fates. But in fourth grade she wins her class spelling bee, followed by the school bee, setting forth a series of events that will tear her family apart.
The book is written in a light manner, despite the heavy material, making it easy to rip through. It slips easily from one point of view to another, and back again. My only quibble is that occasionally it is difficult to tell if an event has happened in the past or present as the book is written all in present tense. The ending left me gobsmacked - I literally yelled out.
If you haven't read this book I suggest that you try to find it. Apparently it's been turned into a movie, which I'll be interested to see.