This section contains 2,269 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
Pages 138 - 200 (MIDDLE) Summary
Back from Washington, DC., Eliza and her family eat dinner together once again. Saul calls it a "victory dinner" even though Eliza did not win the spelling bee. After Eliza's loss, Aaron senses his closeness with Eliza returning.
Aaron and Miriam do not mention their non-observance of the sabbath to Saul.
Aaron asks Saul's permission to go out for pizza and a movie with Aaron's new friend, "Charlie." Saul teases Aaron, asking Aaron if he is going on a date with a girl.
Aaron has only lied to Saul once before. During the last days of eighth grade, Aaron sets fire to his gym uniform; a pair of shorts and a shirt. After the clothes ignite, Aaron hastily tries to clean the scorched spot on the patio with a garden hose. Saul, standing at the screen door, asks Aaron what he is doing. Aaron tells Saul that he is just playing.
Eliza hears her parents making love. She decides against alerting her brother.
Aaron's excitement over visiting Chali's temple builds. He considers resuming guitar practice with his father but decides to leave well enough alone. Aaron knows that Saul would welcome this, but Aaron is too excited about his new friendship with Chali (and the prospect of finding God) to begin again with Saul.
Saul observes that Aaron is especially restless and particularly sensitive lately. He leaves his study door open, hoping that Eliza will approach him and want to do more spelling practice. Saul feels like a wallflower, waiting to be asked to dance. Saul then decides to ask Aaron to practice playing guitar. Saul takes his instrument to Aaron's room, hoping that his son will want to spend time with him again. When Saul reaches Aaron's room, however, the door is closed. Saul decides to give Aaron his space and returns to his study, leaving the door open in case one of his children wishes to approach him.
Aaron arrives at Chali's temple and is warmly greeted by his new friend. When Aaron learns that Chali is a Hare Krishna, Aaron is immediately disappointed and wary. Aaron considers leaving the temple.
Chali presents Aaron with a set of japa beads and explains to Aaron that chanting japa (saying the name of God one hundred-eight times) is essential to the Hare Krishna practice. Aaron is pleased with this new endeavor.
Eliza's return to school and her post-national spelling bee life is less than auspicious. Her routine feels boring and flat. However, Eliza is still somewhat disturbed by Saul's assertion that she must get to know the letters. Eliza begins to feel disconnected from Saul and Aaron once again.
Aaron begins his chanting discipline. Although he feels somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of chanting, he proceeds, making his chant sound as much like Chali's as possible. Aaron chants fifty cycles before he hears someone coming up the stairs and decides to try again early the next morning.
While watching a rerun episode of Barney Miller, Eliza comes to believe that her father is right. She will keep practicing her spelling and look forward to next year.
Miriam resists the urge to drive to another unfamiliar neighborhood to steal. She comes to the decision that having sex with Saul is the only way to counteract her compulsion to take things that do not belong to her.
Eliza and Saul resume their spelling practice. Saul introduces new, interesting techniques that make spelling practice a more organic, natural activity. Eliza is finally learning exactly how to get to know the letters of the alphabet.
Aaron continues chanting japa, finding the darkness of his bedroom closet to be the most preferable spot. Aaron carries his japa beads with him wherever he goes.
Miriam's sexual voracity becomes an embarrassment to Saul. His wife has begun having sex with him when Saul is asleep. Saul feels violated and he notices that Miriam behaves as though he is nothing more than a penis. Saul has a dream in which his penis becomes detached from his body. Saul is conflicted about discussing the matter with Miriam.
Aaron becomes a vegetarian. Over barbecued chicken, Aaron tells his father that Chali ("Charlie") is a vegetarian as well. Saul expresses interest in meeting his son's new friend.
Eliza knows that Aaron is lying about "Charlie." Aaron begins to seriously consider joining the Hare Krishna temple. Subsequently, he becomes infatuated with the guru's daughter and fantasizes about marrying her and having children.
On another visit to the temple, Aaron loses his inhibitions and begins chanting and dancing with Chali and the other temple devotees. Aaron's spirit feels free and he loses awareness of his earthly body as he and the others shout God's name.
Miriam finds the next house she will enter. The house, with its as yet unrevealed missing piece of Miriam's self, calls out to her. Miriam parks three blocks away and begins a causal stroll toward the house. Madge Turner, the mother of one of Aaron's Boy Scout troop members, recognizes Miriam. Miriam is so shocked by the chance encounter that she immediately sinks to the curb. After her conversation with Madge, Miriam is so shaken that she does not go through with her plan.
It has become the norm that Eliza and Saul eat dinner together. Miriam works late regularly and Aaron spends the majority of his free time with "Charlie."
At the end of the school year, Eliza receives straight As on her report card and finally makes the Honor Roll for the first time ever. That night, Saul bakes a cake and he and Eliza conspiratorially eat the whole thing. Later, Saul decides that it is time for Eliza to meet Abraham Abulafia.
Miriam makes the decision to return to stealing from stores rather than from strangers' houses. When she arrives at a mall, however, things do not seem right. Miriam feels ill at ease in the department store. She feels paranoid and disoriented. Finally, she steals a single shoe and makes her way back to the car. Pulling out of the parking lot, Miriam Naumann tosses the stolen shoe out the window.
Saul introduces Eliza to the concept of permutations—taking the letters in one word and recombining them to make new words. By the time Eliza finishes with her permutation practice, she is able to take a six-letter word and recombine it until she has all 720 possible permutations. Saul believes that Eliza has the potential to commune with God through her spelling practice. Saul begins incorporating Abulafia's mysticism into Eliza's spelling study sessions.
Aaron becomes increasingly more involved with life at the Hare Krishna temple. They have nicknamed him "Chaitanya" which means "energy" in Sanskrit. Aaron does all he can at the ISKCON temple. He works in the office and helps with childcare. Aaron fantasizes about becoming the "pujari" (prayer leader) of the temple and leading worship. However, Aaron is not yet ready to accompany Chali to public places in order to find prospective new converts.
Aaron remembers the day he and Saul arrived at Temple Beth Amicah after someone painted a swastika on the wall.
When he, Eliza, and Saul attend Shabbat services at Beth Amicah, Aaron finds that the synagogue no longer interests or inspires him.
After Miriam refuses to discuss her sexual compulsiveness with Saul, Saul begins sleeping in his study. He returns to his bedroom early each morning before Eliza and Aaron wake up.
Chali invites Aaron to spend the weekend at the ISKCON temple. Aaron knows that this means lying to Saul once again. Aaron tells Saul that he is going camping with the school's chapter of the Sierra Club. Aaron even goes so far as to provide Saul with a fake permission slip to sign.
Saul and Eliza continue practicing with letters and reading Abulafia. Saul encourages Eliza to intone each letter and then move her body according to how that intonation makes her feel. Eliza begins with A. The movement she associates with the letter is the exact movement described by Abulafia in the early thirteenth century. Saul is amazed and awed as he watches his daughter.
In Eliza's fantasy, achieving "shefa" (total communion with God) will solve all of her problems. She will be popular, make straight As all the time and, of course, reaching "shefa" will help her win the national spelling bee next year. Eliza plans to borrow the next Abulafia book, Light of the Intellect, when Saul is away giving a bar mitzvah lesson. Eliza knows that borrowing books from her father's study is something that Saul forbids, but she is in a hurry to reach "shefa."
Aaron is packed and ready to leave for his weekend at the Hare Kirshna temple. Saul offers Aaron the family camera to capture his adventure on film but Aaron declines the offer and Saul is once again disappointed. When Aaron arrives at the ISKCON temple, he feels as though he has come home.
While Saul is out of the house, Eliza begins reading the next book by Abulafia. She follows the instructions and begins pronouncing the vowels accordingly. Eliza prepares herself to finally hear the voice of God.
Miriam struggles with her compulsion to steal another object from a stranger's house. Finally she gives in to the urge to drive to another unfamiliar neighborhood to take back another missing piece. She drives into a middle-class housing development. Miriam parks in front of the chosen house this time rather than a block or two away. There is no key under the mat, but Miriam finds that the garage door is unlocked. Lifting the door, Miriam is surprised by a barking dog. She falls onto the garage floor, hitting the back of her head. As the dog (a beagle) continues to bark frantically, Miriam Naumann manages to escape.
At the ISKCON temple, Aaron is so excited at the prospect of his new experience with Chali and the others that he has trouble falling asleep the first night. However, at one point, he dreams that he sees Krishna beckoning to him and hears Saul's voice coming out of Krishna's mouth. Somewhat deflated at the prospect of not having cereal and a banana for breakfast the next morning, Aaron nonetheless throws himself wholeheartedly into temple life.
Pages 138 - 200 (MIDDLE) Analysis
After Eliza and Saul return home from Washington, DC., Aaron and Miriam are both entrenched in their secret lives. Aaron begins lying to his father with more ease and Miriam continues to steal. Aaron's decision not to return to playing guitar with his father proves to be a major turning point in his and Saul's relationship. Conversely, it is Saul who is left wishing that his children will choose him for inclusion in their lives.
Aaron's initial reaction to Chali's revelation of his true religious bent is mitigated by Chali's gift of japa beads to Aaron. After all, Aaron Naumann is someone who prides himself at being good at things and meditating is, for Aaron, no different than solving math problems or playing the guitar. The new meditation practice also gives Aaron something else to enjoy and perfect on his own, without the aid of his father. The japa beads take the place of Aaron's guitar. The character's attention shifts away from his family and onto himself.
Eliza is deflated by her father's assertion that she could be a contender for the national spelling championship the following year; this somewhat erodes her self-confidence and enthusiasm. Momentarily, Eliza returns to the mediocrity that was her pre-bee life.
Miriam experiences substitution. That is, since Miriam is resisting the urge to steal, her compulsion presents itself in the form of sexual compulsion. While his wife's sexual interest is at first stimulating, Saul knows that something is terribly wrong.
When Saul introduces Abulafia's principles of permutation to Eliza, the young girl inadvertently opens the door to her singular fate. Simultaneously, something in Aaron Naumann begins to awaken when he concentrates on perfecting his ISKCON meditation practice. The thrill of his discovery is difficult for Aaron to contain and he makes the decision to devote more of his time and energy to the Hare Krishna way.
Miriam's close call with Madge Turner provides the character with a wake-up call. Running into Madge just prior to another burglary affects Miriam significantly. However, the shock is only temporary, as evidenced by Miriam's subsequent trip to the shopping mall. The effect of stealing the shoe from a department store does not equal the charge Miriam attains when she enters a stranger's house. The shopping mall scene is pivotal, as Miriam fully turns herself over to breaking and entering. It is at this point in the narrative that Miriam's kleptomania takes full control of her entire life. Similarly, this is the point in the narrative at which Aaron Naumann turns his back on Judaism forever.
As Saul and Eliza grow closer, Miriam and Aaron become even more distant from the family unit. Aaron and Miriam trade their family home for other, "figurative" homes. In Miriam's case, home becomes the places from which she is compelled to steal. In Aaron's case, the ISKCON temple becomes his home. Aaron lies to his father for the last time when he tells Saul that he is going camping with the Sierra Club from Abington High School.
After her initial introduction to the mystical ideas of Abraham Abulafia, Eliza Naumann develops a secret of her own. In doing so, Eliza Naumann becomes another character in search of something greater than herself which can only be found outside of the world she now knows.
This section contains 2,269 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)