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Bee Season

A Novel
Narrated by: Myla Goldberg
Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
4 out of 5 stars (293 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable 9-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 takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam's secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos.

Myla Goldberg's keen eye for detail brings Eliza's journey to three-dimensional life. As she rises from classroom obscurity to the blinding lights and outsized expectations of the National Bee, Eliza's small pains and large joys are finely wrought and deeply felt.

Not merely a coming-of-age story, Goldberg's first novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family. The outcome of this tale is as startling and unconventional as her prose, which wields its metaphors sharply and rings with maturity. The work of a lyrical and gifted storyteller, Bee Season marks the arrival of an extraordinarily talented new writer.

©2000 Myla Goldberg (P)2001 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Adult Fiction, 2001

"Goldberg strikes new ground here, and displays a fresh, distinctive and totally winning voice." (Publishers Weekly)
"There is something of Holden Caulfield in Eliza, the same crazed determination to save her loved ones from themselves. An impressive debut from a remarkably talented writer." (Booklist)

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cathy
  • Roslindale, MA, USA
  • 01-14-06

Fascinating concept but something missing

Bee Season combines a young girl's unexpected gift for spelling with the exploration of her family's dysfunction and each family member's individual pursuit of spirituality even as the family pulls apart at the seams.

I love Goldberg's imaginative description of Eliza's experience with vowels and consonants as her spelling becomes more and more mystical. I also love the creative and beautiful depiction of Eliza's mother's obsession (I won't give anything away by saying what she's obessed with). But, some of the characters' motivations are unclear or not believable, and this makes some of the plot hard to swallow.

Also, I appreciate that Goldberg is reading her own book - but with only a few exceptions I find that actors or professional readers do a better job than the authors themselves, and this book is no exception.

Then on the positive side, Goldberg's discussion of Jewish mysticism and alternative religion is pretty fascinating.

So, I do recommend it but with some reservation. I'm curious to see the movie verion with Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 04-06-09

Goldberg's Delight

I tend to avoid fiction, but was encouraged by the reviews and friends to take this volume on. I did and I wasn't disappointed.

I seek out books that are informative, expand my sense of self and life, are well written and expertly read. This volume fills the bill on every front. This is the story of Eliza Naumann who suddenly discovers a talent for spelling and the associated competition - Spelling Bee. That is just another "coming of age" book with a grand exception. Myla Golberg has this quiet, unassuming way of letting the reader know what it is like to be part of a Cantor's family that is coming a part. She weaves wonderfully Jewish mysticism and compulsive behavior into a tremendous portrait that has revisited my mind often since reading. The portrait of how 9 year old Eliza learns to spell and her intricate relationship with her brother is worth the price of admission. Yet, there is much much more. This book was very satisfying to me.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Dysfunctional Family

Having never heard of the author or the book, I was bowled over by this book. This is a story of an observant Jewish family and the stresses of everyday life upon all of them.

From the point of view of every member of the family, one gets to see how much is going on which is never communicated to the other members of the family.

I was also highly impressed with the imagery which Myla Goldberg brings to this novel. She is a master of the English language.

I recommend this very highly.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jane
  • Sioux Falls, SD, USA
  • 12-04-08

Less Than the Sum of its Parts

The failure of this book lies not the author's annoying character voices, or her choice not to leaven the interwoven stories with anything like an upbeat ending. Nor, surprisingly is it a lack of any of the native elements that make a novel work.
The author uses language in a fresh and original way. Her plotting is uniquely quirky. And she appears to have an imaginative if not experiential grasp of the flavors of mysticism with which the characters variously flirt.
Yet, by the time satisfaction is achieved along these paths, one grows weary of the endless disfunctionality of the paterfamilias who clodishly sustains it all.
I picked this book because another listener compared it with "The History of Love" -- a favorite of mine -- and despite the many warnings of other reviewers on this site.
I finished it out of a sense of duty to the money I spent on the download.
Not a complete waste of time -- there are phrases, images, even complete sections that will linger after the digital space is trashed. But one hopes that this author will spend her talents on something more satisfying next time.
And that she'll cede the acting to a professional, if that book is ever recorded.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • AED
  • chicago,il
  • 02-02-06

my family now seems normal

I truly enjoyed this audiobook, although it may be a little far fetched. Normally the author reading their own work makes me cringe, but Myla reads it perfectly. The story flows and is very well written. Download this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Sierra
  • Long Beach, CA, USA
  • 01-26-06

not what I was looking for

I chose this book because it was on the list of recommended books then I logged onto the site. It seemed like an interesting enough story. It started out charming and then just got annoying. It sort of disussed the dynamic of a troubled family, and then just got mystical and out there. I wish I had not taken the time to listen to this book.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Ummm ya,..

I rate this book one star, because I at least finished the book. However, I did set it down for about a month and a half before I picked it back up. Definitely not an ear turner. I couldn't rank it higher because I was annoyed by the author. I usually enjoy when the author reads their own words, but she gave zero personality to her words. It was like a bad poetry recital. But honestly, I don't think it would have been better if I had just read the book.

The ending...whatever. I don't need things wrapped up in a pretty bow, but I like it to be a little more polished. I had to listen to the ending twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t.

Once again I learn, that just because a book is a best seller, doesn't mean it should be.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Keri
  • Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
  • 01-09-06

Sounds bad

The review of this book makes it sound good but I can't listen to it because the person's voice reading it is so annoying. I've tried many times but it's just too grating. I'll go get the book and read it. I wish I could return the audio download.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb novel needs narrator w/ equal vocal talent

Meticulously researched, profoundly perceptive, poetic book. Unfortunately, author's limited vocal range can't differentiate the characters sufficiently.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Penny
  • Al Ain, UAE
  • 09-26-10

Great read

This book was interesting and a little mysterious. I think the author does a great job weaving the mystical Jewish storyline to the mystery of the family living together as strangers. Great story