Well-researched and well-written, this novel just doesn't grip as well as it should. It falls flat in many places - particularly why Eliza is drawn so much to spelling in the first place. It's atypical of a girl her age. Goldberg doesn't explore this.
The ending leaves much to be desired, too. Not everything needs to be wrapped up, but at least something does.
An underachiever, Eliza Naumann, lives in the shadows of her seemingly workaholic lawyer mom, and a father who focuses all of his energy on Eliza's brother who has rabbinical ambition. She amazes everyone when she wins the spelling bee, and this victory sets off a series of events that throws the already dysfunctional Naumann family into crisis. It is Eliza, through her newfound abilities and confidence, who tries to hold them all together. An intriguing story that holds on to you well after you've completed reading it.
Amusing at times, but had an overall inconsistent, disjointed feel. The parents came across as superficial but at least Eliza, the protagonist, was likeable.
I loved this book. I did not see the movie but the book has GOT to be better. It is not just about the girl Eliza but also her mother, father and brother in this strangely disfunctional family. They are Jewish but probably could have been any religion and you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the book. I'm going to recommend it to my book club because the characters and plot are so well developed and the writing is exquisite.
A sad, lovely and generous novel, gripping portrait of a family.
A great read.