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Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
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Bee Season

by Myla Goldberg

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3,261821,692 (3.52)96
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    The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both are novels about families dealing with issues and undergoing changes.
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    The Accidental by Ali Smith (sharlene_w)
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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
before i started reading this, i thought this book was about bees, like the insect. then i thought it was about spelling bees. then all the sudden it was about jewish mysticism. i became increasingly less interested as the book progressed.

there was something about the verb tense of this book that i just found kind of annoying and pretentious. it made it seem as if nothing was ever really happening, and everything was a dream or something like that.

at the beginning i really liked the characters, but towards the end as they were supposed to become more interesting, for me, they became unlikable.

my main issues with the book were that i really didn't like the mysticism and the theme of spelling somehow being a means of transcendence or whatever was going on with eliza.

when characters in books have odd little quirks or major dysfunctions, i often find it makes me like the characters more. in this book i just found no redeeming qualities in any of the characters. i really didn't care what happened to anyone in the family and i thought that all of their spiritual/emotional journeys were kind of boring.

but all that being said, somehow i mostly enjoyed reading this book until about the last 60 pages, and i'm still giving it three stars instead of two... because i did mostly like it until the end. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Brilliant, original, fascinating - and I thank my lucky stars I wasn't born into that family. I read it because the focus is about the daughter's unexpected prowess in spelling bees, but the book really revolves around the family and all their odd interactions. Not a cheerful or uplifting book, though it does encourage our faith in hope and in resiliency. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
A facinating study of a family of four, each trying to find the piece of themselves not provided by their lives, their family relationships, or their religion. I'm not sure eccentric is the term I'd use to describe them. Incredibly needy, perhaps. Untethered.

The heroine, Eliza, is a particularly engaging girl; the mother, conspicuous by her absence in the early story lines, achingly mad. The father Saul, who turned years ago from a background of hallucinogenic seeking, nevertheless tries for a God-invoked nirvana. And the brother Aaron becomes increasingly disengaged from the family as Saul turns from him to heap time, pride, love and expectations on Eliza.

A very worthwhile book, especially for a first work. ( )
1 vote wareagle78 | Feb 8, 2014 |
Compelling despite the unlikeliness of the plot. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Tedious.

Oh my goodness, I thought this book would never end. I was listening to the unabridged audiobook, narrated by the author, whose voice was soooo slow that the book took even longer than it needed to. I have a policy of giving one star if I abandon a book and two if I make it to the end, but I very nearly downgraded this to one star because the ending was such a flop. Nothing was resolved and Eliza's act at the end was so unbelievably annoying.

Eliza Nauman, at nine years old, is a mediocre student. So when she wins the class spelling bee and gains a place at the district finals, her father (Saul) abandons everything to coach her to success, and her older brother Aaron has to sacrifice his guitar sessions with his Dad.

There was a lot of obsession in this novel; Aaron's reaction to his father's neglect and Saul's wife's strange behaviour, as well as intensive study of words and their origins. I was really uninspired by the lengthy descriptions of the 'A-ness of A' and how an A felt to Eliza. Then there was the philosopher Abulafia and his strange ideas about words and their permutations. When Eliza sends herself into a trance I was completely lost, too weird.

So what did I enjoy about this novel? Well, not much, unfortunately, but I loved the collection that Eliza's mother made. I wished I could have seen it.

This book was not at all what I had expected - a lightweight coming of age novel with a spelling bent. Instead I got a tediously descriptive, drawn out philosophical and religious treatise. Not for me I'm afraid. ( )
  DubaiReader | Sep 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Myla Goldberg's first novel, ''Bee Season,'' is a dispassionate, fervidly intelligent book -- she explores class, linguistics and religious extremism with the confidence of a born essayist -- that comes by its emotion honestly.
 
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Epigraph
The world of letters is the true world of bliss.

-- ABRAHAM ABULAFIA (1240 - c. 1292)
Are you really proud of me?

-- REBECCA SEALFON, 1997 NATIONAL SPELLING BEE CHAMPION
Dedication
For my family
First words
At precisely 11 A.M. every teacher in every classroom at McKinley Elementary School tells their students to stand.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385498802, Paperback)

In Myla Goldberg's outstanding first novel, a family is shaken apart by a small but unexpected shift in the prospects of one of its members. When 9-year-old Eliza Naumann, an otherwise indifferent student, takes first prize in her school spelling bee, it is as if rays of light have begun to emanate from her head. Teachers regard her with a new fondness; the studious girls begin to save a place for her at lunch. Even Eliza can sense herself changing. She had "often felt that her outsides were too dull for her insides, that deep within her there was something better than what everyone else could see."

Eliza's father, Saul, a scholar and cantor, had long since given up expecting sparks of brilliance on her part. While her brother, Aaron, had taken pride in reciting his Bar Mitzvah prayers from memory, she had typically preferred television reruns to homework or reading. This belated evidence of a miraculous talent encourages Saul to reassess his daughter. And after she wins the statewide bee, he begins tutoring her for the national competition, devoting to Eliza the hours he once spent with Aaron. His daughter flowers under his care, eventually coming to look at life "in alphabetical terms." "Consonants are the camels of language," she realizes, "proudly carrying their lingual loads."

Vowels, however, are a different species, the fish that flash and glisten in the watery depths. Vowels are elastic and inconstant, fickle and unfaithful.... Before the bee, Eliza had been a consonant, slow and unsurprising. With her bee success, she has entered vowelhood.
When Saul sees the state of transcendence that she effortlessly achieves in competition, he encourages his daughter to explore the mystical states that have eluded him--the influx of God-knowledge (shefa) described by the Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia. Although Saul has little idea what he has set in motion, "even the sound of Abulafia's name sets off music in her head. A-bu-la-fi-a. It's magic, the open sesame that unblocked the path to her father and then to language itself."

Meanwhile, stunned by his father's defection, Aaron begins a troubling religious quest. Eliza's brainy, compulsive mother is also unmoored by her success. The spelling champion's newfound gift for concentration reminds Miriam of herself as a girl, and she feels a pang for not having seen her daughter more clearly before. But Eliza's clumsy response to Miriam's overtures convinces her mother that she has no real ties to her daughter. This final disappointment precipitates her departure into a stunning secret life. The reader is left wondering what would have happened if the Naumanns' spiritual thirsts had not been set in restless motion. A poignant and exceptionally well crafted tale, Bee Season has a slow beginning but a tour-de-force conclusion. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:57 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The bestselling, critically acclaimed debut novel about an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent for spelling. Annotation. Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidactic 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.… (more)

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