An eccentric family falls apart at the seams in an absorbing debut that find congruencies between the school spelling-bee circuit, Jewish mysticism, Eastern religious cults and compulsive behaviour. Nine-year-old Eliza Naumann feels like the dullest resident of her household - her elder brother is an overachiever; her mother is a lawyer and her father is a self-taught scholar. She surprises herself and the rest of her family when she discovers a rare aptitude for spelling, winning her school and district competitions with a surreal surge of mystical insight . . .
Goldberg's insights into religious devotion, guilt, love obsessive personalities and family dynamics ring true. Her quiet wit, animated by an empathetic understanding of human foibles, animates every page, and her unerring knack for telling details captures a child's perceptions with touching acuity.