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Bee Season: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2001
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
While I found certain aspects of the religious aura she created interesting, the primary obstacle to my complete enjoyment of this novel was Goldberg's attribution of very adult emotions and reasoning to her younger characters. While their naivete is apparent, they are somehow able to focus completely on their goals, forsaking all else. Eliza's epiphany toward the end of the book was, for me, a bit over the rainbow; I was never quite able to accept the extreme mystical qualities attributed to the process of spelling, especially for a ten year old (even one that would do anything to please her father). I can accept, however, that the startling realization that your home life is dissolving could cause a child to seek comfort in less concrete or earthly matters. Somehow, this story seems to set out to accomplish one thing--the description of family and personal turmoil--and becomes awash in a sea of religious imagery and mystical concentration.
It was the story of Eliza's mother, Miriam, that most captured my imagination. Her seething instabiity and its kaleidescopic manifestations were truly breathtaking. However, it seems unlikely that such an overwhelming degree of unsteadiness should go undetected within the confines of a long marriage.
The power of language and Myla Goldberg's obvious talents in its portrayal are apparent; the primary plot focuses on the allure of the written word! She is clearly a gifted writer with a startilngly promising future.
Bee Season is about the quest for spritual fullfillment and understanding. It's about an overzealous father incapable of connecting with his children outside of the bounds of religion, a daughter who is delighted to finally get her father's interest, a son in the midst of a spiritual crisis, and a mother with a secret life.
A knowledge or interest in Jewish mysticism is essential to readers approaching this book, as is an interest in spiritual matters in general. I found it enjoyable, but not exactly as advertised. There's a fabulous climax where everything comes together, although the denoument leaves much unresolved.
"Bee Season" is the story of a family that disintegrates as each member seeks individual spiritual enlightenment.
The Naumann family is based on a tissue of lies and misconceptions, but manages to maintain a precarious balance until the "average" daughter upsets the equilibrium by unexpectedly winning a spelling bee.
Although the daughter, Eliza, is the catalyst that sets drastic changes in motion, they are really the result of the complete self absorption and lack of awareness exhibited by her father Saul. He is a man with a mission, and his single-minded efforts to find divine connection blind him to the chaos all around him. He somehow fails to notice that his wife Miriam is mentally ill and his son Aaron is a total misfit falling under the influence of a cult. He also seems to have conveniently forgotten that Jewish mysticism is serious business. He irresponsibly introduces it to a child--despite long-standing prohibitions against its exploration by any other than mentally stable, educated adults.
Saul is completely clueless about the forces in motion in his own household. As disaster follows disaster, he clings to the belief that Eliza will win the national spelling championship, and this will be a sign from God that he is on the right path. Eliza chooses to make sure that her father cannot continue to hide from the truth. If he can ever figure out what happened, he might indeed achieve enlightenment.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this is a very well done book … it takes a family and shows how each person in that family has his/her own existence. plus it manages to weave them together. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lynn A Deglin
1) Two stars instead of one because maybe if the blurb had said "a close look at madness" instead of "a masterful portrayal of modern family life" then I would have... Read morePublished 7 months ago by a reader
I actually would like to give this 2.5 stars but can't and I'm feeling a bit generous today so I will round up instead of down. I had great hopes for this book. Read morePublished 7 months ago by luvs2read
There are two novels in here fighting each other for supremacy: the story of thirteen-year old Eliza, ugly duckling turned spelling whiz, and the story of Eliza’s parents, in... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Joe Da Rold
This novel is like four short stories interwoven and tied together. A good short story has a deep, complex understanding of the human condition and is able to express it in a crisp... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adam