Bee Season (Magill Book Reviews)
Nine-year-old Eliza Naumann, resigned to her fate as a “student from whom great things should not be expected,” wins her school’s spelling bee and advances to the district bee. Afraid the news is insufficiently significant to share with her gifted family, she is reluctant to tell her father, Saul, a cantor and a devoted scholar of Jewish mysticism, about the bee.
Saul, who has been pouring his intellectual energy into the education of his teenage son, Aaron, is elated to hear that Eliza might, after all, be showing some sign of scholarship. After Eliza sweeps the district bee, the demanding and ambitious Saul begins a plan of preparation for the national bee a month away.
Eliza is guiltily pleased to have replaced her brother in her father’s attentions. Every day after school, she and Saul pour over word lists and practice visualization exercises in the privileged sanctuary of Saul’s study. Aaron cannot express his sense of loss over the daily Torah study and guitar playing he once enjoyed with his father and goes elsewhere seeking acceptance and spiritual enlightenment.
As Eliza learns to sense increasingly intricate connections within the letters, Saul gradually suspects she is gifted with the powers of the ancient Jewish mystics. When it is revealed that Miriam, Eliza’s brilliant but distant lawyer mother, has been living a secret life, Eliza believes her spelling skills can help put her disintegrating family back...
(The entire section is 312 words.)
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Bee Season (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Goldberg’s arrival in the literary world was greeted with the highest of accolades from critics nationwide. Newsweek’s Jeff Giles called Bee Season “marvelous” and stated, “It is amazing how quickly a true talent can announce itself. In the case of Myla Goldberg, it is not even a matter of pages, but of sentences.” He went on to declare, “But this is by no means a modest book, either in scope or intellect.” Library Journal declared Goldberg a “talented storyteller,” while a starred Publishers Weekly review applauded the author’s originality: “While coming-of-age stories all bear a certain similarity, Goldberg strikes new ground here, and displays a fresh, distinctive and totally winning voice.” Yet it is much more than Goldberg’s precision in word choice; her prose resonates so deeply and with such immediacy that readers will be drawn, somewhat reluctantly, back to the vagaries of childhood. Eliza’s tender naïveté and youthful sufferings are expressed with such clarity that they leap off the page. The reader, however, knows what Eliza does not; her angst and perplexity are not the musings of an ordinary schoolgirl, but a gifted youth. Though she is convinced of her mediocrity, Goldberg’s heroine will not be leading an ordinary life.
What begins as a disarming story of eleven-year-old Eliza’s boredom with school turns into a complicated character study of a family in a slow but steady...
(The entire section is 1885 words.)