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Bee Season

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  23,403 ratings  ·  1,559 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 275 pages
Published May 15th 2001 by Anchor (first published May 2nd 2000)
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Terry Proffer Humans can make "knowing God" quite difficult. We want to earn it somehow, or suffer in order to "deserve" it. My impression was that this young girl…moreHumans can make "knowing God" quite difficult. We want to earn it somehow, or suffer in order to "deserve" it. My impression was that this young girl went from being all about herself and her own desires, to giving all that up for the good of those she loved. It is a struggle to get there, and the author shows us that struggle in a very physical and psychological way. It is jarring, a lightning bolt thing. I think the author showed that.

Once you have the mindset, actions proceed quickly and naturally. That's why the end makes sense to me. It didn't make all the problems go away, but Eliza was on the right track to do as much good as she possibly could. (less)
Sharon Leader I didn't despise any of them. They were interesting characters, each fairly detached from the others. The mother was mentally ill, surviving in the…moreI didn't despise any of them. They were interesting characters, each fairly detached from the others. The mother was mentally ill, surviving in the only way possible for her, diving deeper and deeper into illness until it was discovered and she was removed from her family. The remaining family members, father, daughter, and son, were all seekers -- looking for transcendence. I don't see the family as split; the story didn't end with the last page of this book. Families always have their differences; the family still existed with relationships still evolving, mother in treatment, and children maturing. (less)

Community Reviews

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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,403 ratings  ·  1,559 reviews

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Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: american, jewish
The Purpose of Family

At least since the novels of William Makepeace Thackeray, the family has been portrayed as the corrupter of those who are its hapless constituents: spouses fight for superiority or escape; ambitious fathers and mothers impose their ambition and snobbery on children who might have turned out better in other circumstances; siblings prosecute relentless rivalries; everyone is driven by the imperatives of family membership. Parental duty and earnestness are parodied and filial l
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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-
Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 24, 2015 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!
Jenny Grundberg
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, fiction
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
Lisa Vegan
May 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy psychologically sophisticated family stories, any spelling bee fans
Fascinating book. I loved this very intense story of a girl and her father, mother, and brother. Each of their characters and their relationships are gone into with such psychological depth. The author is able to impart a sort of heavy, although not depressing, atmosphere, which fits perfectly with the inner lives of the characters. It’s beautifully written, and a lot of sympathy is shown for all of these quirky characters and their many flaws. Don’t need to know about or care about mystical Jud ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
The first third was ok. The second third was tedious. The last third was awful.

I was sad I read this book.
Apr 04, 2007 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 rated it it was amazing
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
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 rated it it was ok
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 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 09, 2008 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
Angela Dean
Jun 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the beginning was the Word: Logos. If spelling the knowledge and faith contained therein were a requirement for salvation, more than likely most of us would find ourselves cooling our heels in some form of remedial purgatory, seeking divine revelation in a book rather than in ourselves and our fellow sinners. Such is the downward path set before poor Eliza: she just wants to be loved by an attentive father; he wants to create a prodigy fed and nurtured on syllables instead of understanding. I ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
  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
Janet Gardner
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Kathleen Fowler
Jan 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: judaism
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Bee Season has four complex characters who together make a fascinating dysfunctional family. They are all bright and quirky. One of their big problems is an inability to communicate.
This is not about the daughter Eliza's skill at spelling, nor is it about Aaron's Hare Krishna experience. Father, mother and kids are all trying to find a way to connect to each other but instead each connects to something.
The ending,which is ambiguous, is perfect. The story is haunting...I was really drawn into it
May 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 rated it did not like it
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...
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Bee Season - Nevisande : Myla Goldberg - ISBN : 385498802 - ISBN13 : 9780385498807 - Dar 275 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2000
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was uninspiring.

The voice was weird, at times acting like it wanted to reflect the characters, while other times, speaking as some weird detached narrator. I actually delineated a paragraph that bothered me to the point that I contemplated quitting on this book.

"Eliza's willingness to face a conceptual Marvin Bussy evaporates at the prospect of encountering the actual one even though she knows she'd have to do something really bad to get him to pick on a kindergartner. She has never wi
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about the book 1 13 Jun 13, 2013 04:25AM  
Just finished the book.. 5 71 Aug 20, 2009 02:41PM  
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Myla Goldberg is the bestselling author of Bee Season, Wickett's Remedy, and The False Friendas well as a children's book, Catching the Moon.
“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.” 27 likes
“The two bond over their mutual lack of family ties: Saul from his disownment, Miriam from the car accident that orphaned her as a college junior. Both want children. Miriam has inherited her parents' idea of procreative legitimacy, wants to compensate for her only-child-dom. She sees in Saul the househusband who will enable her parental ambitions without disabling her autonomy. In Miriam, Saul sees the means to a book-lined study and a lifestyle conducive to mystical advancement. They are both absolutely certain these things equal love.” 3 likes
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