Claire S's Reviews > Bee Season

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
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Mar 22, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: ever-young, fiction, novel, pov-content_jewish, psyche-of, religion-morality, sobriety-spirituality, women, human-damage-healing-fict, struggles-of-use, for_good_of_community, human-poison-aired-out-fict, id-constructs-race-gender, class-relations, pol_not-for-best-self, workplace
Recommended for: Parents; people interested in identity formation, madness, spirituality
Read in June, 2009

Seems like a flavor-fit for transit rides next week..
I like the crazy-family parts, the incipient intelligence coming to fore, the inner-Jewish-temple content, and the dry wit (if that's what it is), like this, about during the State Spelling Bee:
"A misspoken letter is irreversible, the equivalent of a nervous tic during brain surgery." Ouch!

One huge aspect of this story that bothered me is Saul not including Eliza in any Jewish Learning at all, no Bat Mitzvah, etc.. Brings up the time period - maybe it's set in the 70's? Saul's college days seem to be late 60's early 70's, so it seems it's got to be the 80's. And I don't know when things really changes, but as of the late 90's I know girls were all having Bat Mitzvah's, and not just the smart girls or anything. So that just kind of continually threw me for a loop. I guess the story works in some ways given that fact (Eliza's unfamiarity with Hebrew letters is a basic element of the later part of her journey), but it felt so bizarre and without any justification provided. That and some other touches did feel contrived, as others have said. Which, along with the extreme avoidance of conflict etc.. made it more unusual then would be optimally useful seemed to me.

Really interesting commentary on identity formation, parental approval, and the relationship between the two. It shows situations at the far end of bad, but even so, the way the father, Saul (in particular) thinks about what he's doing with his kids is not that far off from how many/most middle-class parents think about such things, possibly.
It doesn't give the 'instead, do this' accompanying content, which I miss, but I guess that would fall in the category of spoon-feeding, etc.. I guess for me the 'instead' is, um, unconditional love of who the kid actually is, and support of that person - especially when that person's process doesn't carry any parental rewards of identity validation etc..
Very chilling and absorbing and all. Reading it on my transit route currently was awful/perfect, as my route consists of 4 reading-segments of 6-10 minutes each, punctuated by movement. Echoed one part of what the characters in this book would be going through - the real world impinging on their chosen universe, and they're having to respond accordingly.
I intensely disliked the ending at first (having no idea how it could end while approaching the last few pages, as so much is going on), but afterwards, forced to make peace with it (to the extent I wanted to have peace with it) I can see that it's relatively perfect. A person incorporating reality into their psyche and making the optimal decision for them based on that reality.
Am very, very happy to be done with it.
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Reading Progress

05/31/2009 page 55
20.0%
06/02/2009 page 80
29.09% "yes, the big picture has a lot of particular intensity that may not fit for many of us; but the details ring true, most important."
06/04/2009 page 200
72.73% "Such a contrast: big craziness like journeys into twisted depths, broken sexuality, kaleidoscopic flavors of mania.. plus mundane details."
06/05/2009 page 238
86.55% "Ewww... when he finds her 'kaleidoscope', he just wishes he could have created it with her. Spooky! Hope to finish this today, release it."
06/06/2009 page 260
94.55% "Done!"

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