Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I could never remember if Bee Season or The Secret Life of Bees was the book about spelling bees. I knew one was and the other was marketed directly at Oprah women and their book clubs to teach them very important lessons about Intolerance and Racism and The Nature Of Women, which didn't really appeal to me. Once I sorted out which was which, I put Bee Season by Myla Goldberg on my list. Claire recommended it when I saw it in her bookcase recently, so I finally got around to checking it out.

And, well, only the first quarter or so of the book covers spelling bees. After that it spirals into something much different and deeper than I was expecting. Eliza's previously undiscovered affinity for spelling upsets the delicate balance in her family, sending each member on different but parallel paths toward wholeness or perfection or God, all of which intentionally start to seem like the same thing. I was a little uneasy with this turn, unsure if the author could pull it off, but, for the most part, she does. The events aren't hard to predict but there are unexpected results or detours along the way that keep the book interesting, even as the family disintegrates. I liked Goldberg's writing style and her use of language, with the exception of her stylistic quirk of occasionally using dangling participles. She didn't do it often enough so that it became a part of the rhythm of the book, but that just meant I noticed every single one. Thankfully she didn't overdue them or I probably would've gotten too annoyed to finish the book.

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