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Bee Season

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3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  17,877 ratings  ·  1,275 reviews
'An eccentric family falls apart at the seams in an absorbing debut that find congruencies between the school spelling-bee circuit, Jewish mysticism, Eastern religious cults and compulsive behaviour. Eleven-year-old Eliza Naumann feels like the dullest resident of her household - her elder brother is an overachiever; her mother is a lawyer and her father is a self-taught s...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 5th 2001 by Flamingo (first published May 2nd 2000)
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Rose Joyce I found the mother to be the only non sympathetic character in the story. Even after her sad upbringing and mental illness was brought out I still…moreI found the mother to be the only non sympathetic character in the story. Even after her sad upbringing and mental illness was brought out I still could not warm up to her at all.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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rachel
Sometimes when a person I've just met or a well-meaning family member talks about my future children, I stop to correct them. "Oh, no, I don't want kids," I say, laughing breezily to lighten this very personal revelation. This answer garners one of two responses, neither of which are very polite. Either my conversation partner will look at me with eyes of wisdom and upraised chin and say, "You're young, you'll change your mind," or they'll screech "WHAT???!!! Yes. You do!"

But I don't want kids...more
Lisa
This book was masterfully written and extremely surprising. I picked it up off my roommate's shelf thinking, "Oh, this looks like a sweet little book about spelling bees." I don't even know where to begin in describing how wrong I was. That was one thing that made the book so stunning: it completely circumvented my expectations.

The story is complex, with overtones that are varyingly dark and bright and intriguing. I think you could have conversations for hours about the characters in this book-...more
Bonnie Jeanne
So much is made in other reviews of this book of the family that seeks perfection only to fall further and further from it, but I think the story isn't so much about perfection as it is about just plain seeking. It didn't end like "American Beauty," but I think the ending is just as it should be.

I didn't see the Naumann family as at all eccentric. They are a family like any family, with communication trouble, secrets, and compulsions. What difference does it make if a compulsion brings you into...more
Anne
Jun 22, 2007 Anne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spelling bee champs, kleptomaniacs, and all who seek enlightenment
This book is totally about my family and my childhood, except it was written by Myla Goldberg. (And I must admit it's more exciting and disturbing than my family or my childhood...for one, my only brush with Hare Krishna was at the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom in Ann Arbor, where they played a soundtrack that chanted "Hare, Hare, Hare Krishna" all day long. Great for grading papers.)

So yes, Bee Season is a great read (I devoured it in two hot-and-heavy days) and it makes some very groovy connections be...more
Bree
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sandy Thomson
Jun 11, 2008 Sandy Thomson rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
What a disturbed and messed up family..... religious obsession in any form, any religion, is warped and vile to my senses. The father here is so caught up in the pursuit of his 'perfect' view of Judaism and what behavior does or doesn't fit his picture, that he has totally failed to see that every member of his family is being damaged, by his obsession. He ignores his daughter in favor of training his son to fulfil his own (the father's) dreams, and then rejects his son in favor of his daughter...more
Leslie
This book is unique in the sense that it addresses a common storyline (coming-of-age while under intense academic pressure) in a quite uncommon manner. While guising as a simple plot involving a girl's quest to win a spelling bee, this book explores topics all the way from mental illness to religious awakenings.

The heart of the story, though, rests in a young girl's observations of and interactions with her family. An omnisceint narrator threads the plot together, as s/he explains the inner-mos...more
Jenny
I am hearby stating that my new rating policy will be based on whether or not the book moved or uplifted me in any way.

I really was excited about this novel because I'm a sucker for any young-girl-coming-of-age novel, but this one left me flat at the end. I couldn't stop reading, but the entire time I read I had this "yuck" feeling. This family is dysfunctional beyond words. The characters continually misunderstand each other. I was always waffling between sympathy and disgust with the father....more
jess
May 05, 2009 jess rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to jess by: Ariel Federow
Shelves: audiobook-d, 2009, fiction
Bee Season exists at the baffling intersection of Spelling Bees, Jewish mysticism, Hare Krishna recruitment, and mental illness. Each family member has a sort of unconventional relationship with the others, although it's difficult to see how very strange things are until they start to fall apart. (Oh, Chinua Achebe, you go everywhere with me).

The very average, younger sister becomes the favored child when Eliza suddenly displays her surprising aptitude for turning words into carefully placed le...more
Marie
When choosing a book for the library discussion group, I was offered a list from a particular program the library uses. There really weren't many options, and none of the those I'd actually read before would be worth talking about.

But Bee Season had a compelling enough concept that I chose it despite only so-so reviews here on GR. Because at least people had found enough to talk about. And my group did talk about it. We talked lots about how it failed.

To be clear, we all agreed that it wasn't a...more
Tiffany
Oh. My. God. To quote another literary work, this book is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Silly me, I went into this book thinking that it would be about a girl and spelling bees (despite the warnings that I now remember receiving)... but the book is so much more than that. I think a better description of the book is a family looking for/rethinking their spirituality: Aaron, the brother, who begins to question his Judaism; Miriam, the mother, who feels drawn to things for a mysterious...more
Tifnie
UGH! I couldn't get through this book fast enough and I couldn't resign myself to not finish it.

Baiscally this book is about a disfunctional jewish family. Eliza, who is at first mentally challenged, soon becomes a spelling bee champ. Saul, her father, drops guitar lessons with his son to teach Eliza about Abulafia which is a sophisticated theory of language. He brother, Aaron, becomes disengaged and starts to explore his own identy outside the jewish faith. All the while, the mother, Miriam is...more
Travis
This book was amazing. There is not a single thing I didn't love about it. I loved the writing, the storylines, the utter dysfunctionality of the characters. I've seen some complaints in other reviews about the ending, but I thought it was perfect. It ends at exactly the right place.[return][return]I'm impressed with how many threads she managed to weave together. The search for something spiritual they all share, the hints of Miriam's mental imbalance in Aaron and Eliza, the way both parents ar...more
Kaitlin
Eliza, an average fifth-grader, wins her school spelling bee, to her and every else’s surprise. As she goes on to more serious spelling competitions, her family members begin to question their own choices. Her 16-year-old brother considers converting from Judaism to another religion; her insomniac mother begins making strange trips to other neighborhoods; and her academic father reveals what’s really in all the books in his library. Eliza herself tries to figure out what she wants out of spellin...more
Angela Dean
Words cannot describe how much i HATED this book. I will attempt it anyways. In fact, it doesn't even deserve one star. It started out just fine, a young girl who was never thought to be that smart discovers she has a talent for spelling and decides to enter the spelling bee. At this point, I thought "Ok, so this is kind of cute I guess". I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. This book is messed up. The mother deserves to be in a mental facility, that dad is as vain as can be, and their teenage...more
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet Gardner
I really liked—very nearly loved—this novel. Meet the Naumann family: Saul, the father, is a stay-at-home dad and obsessive, self-taught Kabballist. Miriam, the mother, is a brilliant and massively energetic lawyer, but emotionally distant from her family and harboring a dark, potentially dangerous secret. Son Arron, at 16, expects to become a rabbi someday, but as nerdy outcast at school, he finds himself wanting something more (or at least different) from his spiritual life. Ten year old daugh...more
Cheryl
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.
Sarah
It seemed that everyone was talking about some "bee book" so I mistakenly picked this up. Come to find that The Secret Life of Bees was the "bee book" that was so popular. Instead, I read Goldberg's odd tale of an eccentric Jewish family and was sorely disappointed. Never did get around to reading Secret Life...
Heather
A below average Jewish girl hopes her unexpected spelling abilities will help her save her family. It started out beautifully but became increasingly weirder and weirder until it discentigrated into something repelling.
Gremlin

What seemed at first to be an average book about a dysfunctional family revealed itself halfway through to have a beautiful depth. It explores the paths people take to find serenity and to get closer to a god of their understanding. These paths are marked by obsession, rebellion and mental illness.


The warehouse kaleidoscope scene is wonderfully described and it reminded me of the scene in the movie American Beauty where Ricky Fitts was describing his discovery of the secret life of objects when

...more
Kristin
The first third was ok. The second third was tedious. The last third was awful.

I was sad I read this book.
Mimi
I really enjoyed this book ... it kind of made me think of many of the books I used to read by authors such as Chaim Potok (in its discussion of the acceptance and denial of Jewish mysticism and religion as a whole) and Judy Blume (in that it dealt with growing up with all-to-human parents, rites of passage and much more). ...And yet this is a book for adults and deals with adult emotions and issues!

The characters created by Myla Goldberg are wonderfully crafted.

* Saul, the obsessively scholarly...more
Ms. Carlino
This took me ENTIRELY by surprise. A former spelling bee champ myself (no, really, it's true...) I laughed aloud multiple times at Goldberg's exquisite description of the motions and emotions of any "bee." I had no idea that the plot would become so complex or moving. I'm not sure who I feel for most: Saul, the well-meaning but simultaneously over and under active parent? Aaron, the boy who loses and finds faith at the risk of losing his father? Or Eliza, the too-young-to-understand-yet-determin...more
Kathleen
I found this book very depressing. Saul, his wife Miriam, son Aaron and daughter Eliza are all people dissatisfied with their lives, who imagine that mystical experiences can fill the void. The closer each of them moves to their personal nirvana, the farther they move from each other, and from confronting the emptiness that propelled them on this path in the first place. I found it impossible to care about any of these characters or take much of an interest in their belated efforts to extricate...more
Russell
I enjoyed the parts of this book where I was learning about religions that I knew nothing about. That was real fun to not only learn What happens, but the Why and especially the How those doing religions feel about it during.

I dug all the stuff about the daughter going through the Spelling Bee. That was an interesting journey. In fact I was okay with all four of the characters being, sort of, awful people when I thought things would get better. And things did get better by the end, but not as mu...more
flowairblue
Bee Season, wow, I don’t even know where to start to describe this book. Not that it’s so written so wonderfully that I’m left speechless, not in the traditional sense. I am speechless, more than after anything I’ve read before, but it is a experience completely different from any other time. If the author’s intention is to “lull people into (a) sense of complacency and then hit them over the head”, then I think I have to congratulate her on succeeding that so well.
I guess anyone on reading the...more
malic

What i love about this novel is understanding all the missed connections and miscommunication the characters have with each other, understanding the histories and experiences that cause the characters to treat and respond to each other in certain ways, and seeing the root causes of the family's problems and disfunction's.

The book follows Eliza as she prepares for a national spelling bee, her dad who coaches her, her mom, and her brother who goes through a religious journey outside of his Jewish...more
Karo
Bee Season is the story of the unraveling of a family which was clinging together by the barest of threads, with two parents so engrossed in their own obsessions that they listened but never heard. We have Aaron, the older brother, who is consistently bullied at school and feels at peace only at the Jewish temple where his father, Saul, is the cantor. Saul has created a world for himself in his tiny study full of books from which her emerges only to cook dinner for the family as his wife, Miriam...more
Ed
Tracey and I listened to this Audio book together. I think we bought this 10 CD unabridged 12 hour set while visiting Minnesota last August and started it on the way to Oregon for Thanksgiving, and finished it on the way to Tucson for Christmas 2008.

I won't put any spoilers here, so don't worry.

It was read by the Author Myla Goldberg, and she is an excellent reader. Some authors are not good readers, and the probably don't know it. But Myla is really creative and captivating.

We both loved the f...more
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about the book 1 10 Jun 13, 2013 04:25AM  
Just finished the book.. 5 65 Aug 20, 2009 02:41PM  
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Myla Goldberg is the bestselling author of Bee Season and Wickett's Remedy, as well as a children's book, Catching the Moon. The paperback edition of her newest novel, The False Friend, will be coming out this fall. She also plays accordion and banjo and sings as part of the Brooklyn art-punk band, The Walking Hellos.
More about Myla Goldberg...
The False Friend Wickett's Remedy Time's Magpie: A Walk in Prague Catching The Moon The Commemerative

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“She has 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.” 17 likes
“Rushing toward her are all the letters of the alphabet. Each one moves in its own way, X cartwheeling over and over, C hopping forward, M and N marching stiff-legged and resolute.” 2 likes
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