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Bee Season
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About the Author

Myla Goldberg lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, Jason Little.

Reviews

YA-Eliza and Aaron Naumann are never chosen for school teams and struggle to make friends. Their father, a cantor devoted to the study of Jewish mysticism, spends his days reading ancient Hebrew texts, cooking the meals, and taking care of the family. Their mother is a lawyer and the breadwinner. The parents sleep in separate rooms and barely converse. Saul Naumann hopes that "gifted-and-talented" 16-year-old Aaron will follow in his footsteps and become a scholar. Nine-year-old Eliza is a C student of whom little is expected. However, when she wins her school's spelling bee, things begin to change. After she earns first place in district and area competitions, she becomes the focus of her father's attention. Jealous, Aaron reacts by exploring alternate religions and focuses on the Hare Krishnas, where he feels welcomed and valued. Meanwhile, their mother, a kleptomaniac since childhood, has graduated from shoplifting to breaking and entering. Finally, she is arrested and placed in a mental hospital. As the family unit breaks apart, Aaron finds the courage to tell his father of his new religion, and Eliza declares her independence from her father during the national spelling bee. Teens will identify with these young people as they seek out their own identities while risking the loss of parental approval.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

An eccentric family falls apart at the seams in an absorbing debut that finds congruencies between the elementary school spelling-bee circuit, Jewish mysticism, Eastern religious cults and compulsive behavior. Nine-year-old Eliza Naumann feels like the dullest resident of a house full of intellectuals--her older brother, Aaron, is an overachiever; her mother, Miriam, is a lawyer; and her father, Saul, is a self-taught scholar and a cantor at the community synagogue. She surprises herself and the rest of the Naumanns when she discovers a rare aptitude for spelling, winning her school and district bees with a surreal surge of mystical insight, in which letters seem to take on a life of their own. Saul shifts his focus from Aaron to Eliza, devoting his afternoons to their practice sessions, while neglected Aaron joins the Hare Krishnas. Seduced by his own inner longings, Saul sees in Eliza the potential to fulfill the teachings of the Kabbalah scholar Abulafia, who taught that enlightenment could be reached through strategic alignments of letters and words. Eliza takes to this new discipline with a desperate, single-minded focus. At the same time, her brilliant but removed mother succumbs to a longtime secret vice and begins a descent into madness. Goldberg's insights into religious devotion, guilt, love, obsessive personalities and family dynamics ring true, and her use of spelling-as-metaphor makes a clever trope in a novel populated by literate scholars and voracious readers. Her quiet wit, balanced by an empathetic understanding of human foibles, animates every page. Although she has a tendency to overexplain, Goldberg's attentive ear makes accounts of fast-paced spelling competitions or descriptions of Miriam's struggles to resist her own compulsions riveting, and her unerring knack for telling details (as when Eliza twitches through a spelling bee in itchy tights) captures a child's perceptions with touching acuity. While coming-of-age stories all bear a certain similarity, Goldberg strikes new ground here, and displays a fresh, distinctive and totally winning voice. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Eliza disarms her overachieving family by suddenly winning spelling bees; a much-touted debut. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Bee Season is a profound delight, an amazement, a beauty, and is, I hope, a book of the longest of seasons."
--Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth

"Myla Goldberg's Bee Season is a bittersweet coming-of-age in which wise little Eliza Naumann's quirky passion for spelling bees unites and divides her family while revealing universal truths about the often crippling pain of love."
--Martha McPhee, author of Bright Angel Time "There is such joy and pain thrumming inside Myla Goldberg's spelling bees! She delicately captures one family's spinning out by concentrating equally on the beauty and the despair. Bee Season is a heartbreaking first novel."
--Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt "In a story told with unique delicacy and brave inventiveness, a young girl, innocent and all-knowing, learns how much there is to lose, and what it takes to win."
--Elizabeth Strout, author of Amy and Isabelle

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