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Bee Season

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  20,764 Ratings  ·  1,401 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 17, 2011 rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, jewish, 2011
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
Oct 23, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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-
Nov 27, 2015 Nikoleta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Μπερδεμένο και βαρετό. Δυστυχώς αυτό το βιβλίο είναι φλατ, δεν έχει καμία σπιρτάδα. Επίσης πηγαίνει από το παρελθόν στο παρόν χωρίς σειρά, άλλες φορές ανά δυο παραγράφους άλλες φορές ανά μια (δεν έχει κεφάλαια), και με μπέρδευε τελείως. Επίσης χανόμουν μέσα στους εβραϊκούς όρους που δυστυχώς πουθενά το βιβλίο δεν τους εξηγούσε. Μην μιλήσω για το perfectimundo της Μιριαμ… (ποτέ δεν κατάλαβα τι εννοεί ο ποιητής)… Το βιβλίο αυτό ήμουν σίγουρη ότι θα μου αρέσει, τελικά απλώς το άφησα!
Mar 28, 2008 Bree rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 Bonnie Jeanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2007 Anne rated it liked it  ·  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
Jul 22, 2008 Jenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Sandy Thomson
Jun 11, 2008 Sandy Thomson rated it it was ok  ·  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
Apr 04, 2007 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2009 jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to jess by: Ariel Federow
Shelves: 2009, audiobook-d, 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
Jan 06, 2011 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
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
Angela Dean
Jun 23, 2012 Angela Dean rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2008 Tifnie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
May 13, 2008 Kristin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first third was ok. The second third was tedious. The last third was awful.

I was sad I read this book.
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
Jul 05, 2009 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2008 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 04, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2015 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know what to expect from this book, which might very well have been a typical feel-good kid-triumph book (or even a book about the lessons of failure) as told through the plot device of a spelling bee. Instead, it's about the complexities of family life--including everything from the delicate and evolving relationship between parents and children, religious mysticism, secrets and lies, and the heritability of mental illness. The spelling bee, and the word study that precedes it, broaden ...more
Janet Gardner
Oct 13, 2014 Janet Gardner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I liked the way this story started out and the writing was engaging. Unfortunately about halfway through it became tedious and seemed to take a different direction. There was almost too much much dysfunction among the characters that never came together. I had high hopes since it was recommended to me. 2.5 stars
Mar 18, 2008 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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...
Dysphasiatic Danz
Jul 03, 2014 Dysphasiatic Danz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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


The word-nerd in me loved the first half of Myla Goldberg's Bee Season, a story half about perfectly average Eliza Naumann and her pursuit to win a spelling bee (and garner the attention of her less-than-attentive parents), the other half about Eliza's family, which seems on the surface to be perfectly normal, but threatens to embark upon paths of destruction as the story progresses.

Maybe it's because I'm not Jewish, but the story starts to decoct into a kaleidoscope of nonsense when a) Eliza's
Mar 05, 2010 Mimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ms. Carlino
Aug 15, 2011 Ms. Carlino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2013 DubaiReader rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

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
Jan 29, 2013 Kathleen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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about the book 1 12 Jun 13, 2013 04:25AM  
Just finished the book.. 5 68 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...

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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.” 23 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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