Bee Season by Myla Goldberg was a most unusual book telling the story of a family of four on a quest for God, order, or something that makes sense. Eliza, the nine-year-old daughter, is looking to achieve something extraordinary to catch her parents' attention. Aaron, the nerdy, teen son is looking to get closer to God. Miriam, the mother is distant and attempts to follow her heart's desire in the collection of stolen objects. As the father who dotes on his son, Saul is the glue that holds the family together despite his own quirks.
The reader is taken on a journey with the Naumann family, learning about each member's psychological and spiritual urges. Expect a few surprises while uncovering the thought process behind the characters. The first half of the story moves slowly, and then picks up speed in the latter half.
Eliza finally stands out by winning the spelling bee and working her way to the National Bee in Washington, DC. Despite not supporting her at first, Saul becomes involved in her quest for the National Bee championship, and discovery of Jewish mysticism. In the process of helping her, he abandons his son. In turn, Aaron begins studying Eastern religions to find a way to recapture the closeness he felt with God when he was a bar mitzvah.
As interesting it is to read about Abraham Abulafia's writings that outline a formula for achieving high-order thinking, it's unbelievable that a now ten-year-old would work toward this thinking as she learns spelling words under her father's tutelage. This aspect of the book gets too heavy and difficult to believe.
A lawyer and a kleptomaniac, Miriam is looking to find the perfect world or as she calls it, "perfectimundo." Having tragically lost her parents while in college, something about her indicates she has never been close to anyone. Perhaps, when she first meets Saul, she experiences closeness. Instead, she displays a greater love for her stolen objects than her family. It's not clear what is driving Miriam's actions, psychological or otherwise.
In the end, the book has taken us on an unrealistic and highly spiritual journey with no real closure. It was an unusual and different kind of story that had even greater potential than was realized. It's not to say that the book should have had a predictable plot or a "feel good" ending. Goldberg has written an unpredictable story with plenty of surprises. Expect plenty of questions and no absolute answers.
Meryl rarely gets to read fiction. When she grows up, she wants to be a full-time reader and read every one of those books on her shelf.