Bee Season

10/09/2011 at 9:47 AM (Books, Educational, Religion, Spiritual) (, , , , )

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg is the story of a Jewish family in Pennsylvania.  We are introduced to fifth grader Eliza Naumann, the “ordinary” member of a gifted family. She surprises them all by winning the class spelling bee, followed by the district spelling bee and then makes her way into the final rounds of the national spelling bee.

Eliza’s new skill distracts her father Saul from the guitar and study sessions he used to have with her older brother Aaron who has aspirations to become a rabbi because he chooses to study for the spelling bee with Eliza instead. Feeling disillusioned with Judaism, Aaron experiments with several religions before deciding to join the Hare Krishna group, as he feels abandoned by his father. Meanwhile her mother Miriam progresses further into a psychosis that has been building up in her since a certain concept was explained to her by Saul and it is discovered that she is a kleptomaniac. It seems that Eliza’s new found talent is contributing to breaking her family apart at the seams.

Bee Season Book Cover

Although Eliza is rapt at the extra attention she was receiving, she feels bad about the deepening distance between herself and her brother and widening chasm between him and her father who once used to be quite close.  Different characters choose unorthodox ways to resolve their issues or neglect handling them and it causes problems later on. There are parallels between each family member but each decides to deal with it in their own way instead of confiding in each other. Eliza witnesses these changes observing how the actions of one family member indirectly affect all the others. Each fails to notice how similar they all happen to be but this is obvious to the reader.

In the end, Eliza is forced to make a big decision, which will either keep her father’s attention on her or give up her new talent. The terrifying experience she is subject to one night while perusing some mystical books in her father’s study makes her realise the right course to take. Given I expected this book to be about bees that produced honey rather than the spelling kind, it captured my attention when the story started out mild and kept getting darker in its mood. Nevertheless it is an incredible read!

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven

02/22/2011 at 12:16 PM (Books, Educational, Fable, Inspired, Spiritual, War) (, , , , , , )

Once I accidentally happened upon Tuesdays with Morrie at my university library while searching for some course text books. So what do I do?

I promptly abandon my text hunting and sit in for a delicious tale written by Mitch Albom about his moments with the retired sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz ; it is about the lessons the author learned from the teacher who had contracted Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). So it was with joy I revisited this author’s writing in The Five People You Meet In Heaven. Unlike my first experience, this time it was fiction inspired by Eddie Beitchman, the writer’s real life uncle, who had lived a life like that of Eddie in the book.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven Book Cover

This particular narrative starts with a death – the death of the main character, Eddie the maintenance man on Ruby Pier, on his 83rd birthday to be exact. This birthday incident is notable because you realise lots of events of significance happened on his birthdays.Small little interconnected coincidences, to which readers are clued in by the narrator, lead to an accident at the Ruby Pier amusement park that finally leads to Eddie’s death as he tries to rescue a young girl. This is why the book starts with a chapter titled ‘The End’.

We are then given some insight into his journey through heaven after his passing away.Through this trip, we are treated to glimpses of five people on whom his past had a significant impact. His first encounter is with the blue man, a former circus freak, who imagines the Ruby Pier of Eddie’s childhood as his own heaven. Eddie had been indirectly responsible for his death but he tells Eddie events are not that random and lives intersect for a reason.

The second stage of heaven brings Eddie to a scene of war torn desolation during WWII. His new mentor turns out to be his war captain with whom he fought in the Philippines, where they became prisoners of war for a brief period. Eddie uses his circus skills to escape their confinement but feels too paralysed to leave at the last moment after he helps to set the war camp on fire. The captain had promised his subordinates that he would not leave anyone behind. To fulfill this promise, he shoots Eddie in the leg to make it easier to get the evacuation underway. Initially Eddie is angry with the captain who had been waiting to ask his forgiveness but realises the man suffered a worse fate than him. He teaches Eddie about sacrifice.

Next Eddie meets an elderly Ruby, a woman he has never met before. She turns out to be the namesake of the amusement park where he worked all his life. He meets her in a diner where she had worked when she was young and where she had met her husband, Emile – the creator behind Ruby Pier. She tells him the misconceptions he had entertained against his father were far from the truth despite their conflicts. She was privy to his deathbed confession because Emile was in the same room. She tells Eddie about the importance of forgiveness.

Finally Eddie comes face to face with Marguerite, the love of his life. Their marriage was happy but childless so they had put in an application for adoption. Before this can take place, Eddie is involved in betting high stakes at the track. Worried about him, she drives to meet him but meets with an accident when some drunk kids drop some whiskey bottles that land on the car. This causes unforeseen medical expenses and their application for adoption is rejected. Although the accident creates tension between them at first, they overcome this situation until tragedy strikes again taking Marguerite. He meets her in a succession of wedding parties belonging to different cultures where she teaches him their love was neither snatched too early or torn to pieces as he had thought.

His final teacher is Tala who meets a grisly fate due to his hand at war camp. This explains why he felt he could not leave but his war captain shooting him ensures his survival. Tala tells him his life as ‘Eddie Maintenance’ was an important one. His ability to keep an eye on the proper functioning of the rides meant lives were saved – both the born and unborn. Eddie is a man who feels has not achieved what he has set out to accomplish because by a set of unfortunate circumstances, he inherits a job he despises but stays because he feels obligated to continue the job his father had. Tala, who meets him near a river, teaches him the meaning and purpose of his work at the pier was to save and protect the children. Eddie’s life ends with him doing what he had done for his entire life.

Rich in symbolism, motifs and imagery of rebirth and redemption, The Five People You Meet In Heaven is a tale of inspiration about an unsung hero.

  • To watch Tuesdays with Morrie trailer, click here.
  • To watch The Five People You Meet in Heaven trailer, click here.

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Eat Pray Love (Film)

10/24/2010 at 10:38 AM (Adventure, Books, Inspired, Movies, Spiritual) (, , )

The movie starring Julia Roberts as the woman who packs up her job and marriage to travel in pursuit of balance mostly stays true to the book but has a tendency to stray off track in the smaller details. I suppose it made the pace faster even if it still turned out to be a movie that was 2.5 hours long in the cinema.

I’m not  going to rehash the plot here since you can easily do that on IMDB . Besides after covering the book plot earlier in the blog covering the film plot  as well would be pointless.

Instead I will stick to some observations that stood out.

1. It was rather interesting to see the relationship between Liz and her editor. I never expected authors would run to the houses of their editors for shelter during a marital breakdown.

2. It was also rather strange to see only the one Giovanni who was Sophie’s paramour throughout the movie. So it turned out they had disposed of the twin Italian tutors from the book.

3. They had completely written out the Italy visit from Liz’s inspiring sister.

4.  They never bothered with Tutti saga where her mother faltered from buying the house until the very last minute until being told the money was going to be taken from her.

5. Felippe’s  son visits him in the film and actually meets Liz and inspires his father to pursue her even if she’s regularly mean and nasty to him. This is no feature of the book.

All I have to say is the movie made me feel nothing – it dragged and felt long. It was not because I’d read the book because I’ve seen the film adaptations of print before and actually found enjoyment in it. Most surprisingly of all, for a film about the woman on the trail of self-discovery, it is the men (Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem ) who stand out.

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The Alchemist

01/11/2010 at 9:51 AM (Adventure, Fable, Spiritual) ()

The Alchemist

Facing a long V-Line journey to Traralgon, I decided to travel from the comfort of my seat to the deserts of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

It was definitely an interesting take on spiritual reading but I think what made it so successful was the simplicity of the language and its attempt to answer the questions everyone is searching the answers to but is afraid to listen to through the travels of an Andalusian shepherd boy.

What did I learn from it?

Everyone has dreams to follow but feel held back by love, the fear of change and conditions of adversity. There are prices to pay before reaping rewards. Patience is an important skill.

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