Reviewed by Monique Prince, Undergraduate Services Librarian
Bee Season is Myla Goldberg's debut novel, and is about a contemporary Jewish family on the verge of falling apart. Eliza Naumann is an average nine-year-old with no expectations of glory. She surprises herself and everyone she knows when she easily wins her school's spelling bee. As she goes on to compete in regional, then national bees, she becomes the object of her father's devotion and love. Her sixteen-year-old brother, a high achiever, had previously been the prized child and is uncomfortable with the shift in family dynamics. He becomes increasingly alienated from his family as immerses himself in a Hare Krishna religious community. Their mother, a lawyer and family breadwinner, is involved in her own private battles with mental illness and obsessive stealing which spirals out of control.
Among the various complex relationships between the Naumann family members, the most engaging is that of Eliza and her father, who is devoted to the study of Jewish mysticism. Eliza craves her father's pleasure and praise resulting from her spelling success, and thrives on the time they spend working together even as her family is breaking apart. At the same time, she blames herself for her family's troubles, and has to decide which is more important: her father's approval or her family's cohesion.