About The Book
Short, elegant, sexy, and provocative, Bethany Ball’s debut What to Do About the Solomons weaves contemporary Jewish history through a distinctly modern, propulsive, and savvy tale of family life.
Meet Marc Solomon, an Israeli ex-navy commando now living in L.A., who is falsely accused of money laundering through his asset management firm. As the Solomons’ Santa Monica home is raided, Marc’s American wife, Carolyn—concealing her own dark past—makes hopeless attempts to hold their family of five together. But news of the scandal makes its way from America to the rest of the Solomon clan on the kibbutz in the Jordan River Valley. There we encounter various members of the family and the community—from Marc’s self-absorbed movie actress sister, Shira, and her forgotten son, Joseph; to his rich and powerful construction magnate father, Yakov; to his former star-crossed love, Maya; and his brother-in-law, Guy Gever, a local ranger turned “artist.” As the secrets and rumors of the kibbutz are revealed through various memories and tales, we witness the things that keep the Solomons together and those that tear them apart.
Reminiscent of Nathan Englander’s For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, What to Do About the Solomons is an exhilarating first book from a bright new star in fiction.
Finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Paperback Row selection and one of “10 New Books We Recommend This Week”; an Amazon Best Book of the Month (fiction/ literature); one of TabletMagazine’s “Seven Jewish Literary Fiction Books To Read This Year”
“There’s nothing more exciting as a bookseller (or a reader) than discovering a new writer who creates memorable characters in a setting we don’t see every day. Funny, sexy, and smart.”―Judy Blume, New York Times “Summer Reading Recommendations, From 6 Novelists Who Own Bookstores”
“Like any Jewish story worth the salt that Lot’s wife became, [What to Do About the Solomons] is admirably and quite beautifully rooted in 20th century history―and yet, at the same time, it largely steers clear of the politics that, from one angle or another, drag down so many contemporary novels…[Ball] works hard to render each [character] with sensitivity and respect, a dedication that also makes her fabulously unafraid to mark her characters with signs of psychosis and brutality… I ended What to Do About the Solomons absolutely swimming with affection, not just for the characters but for the multiple worlds that created them. Despite their collective penchant for psychodrama , there’s something profoundly lovely―and loving―about the Solomons. And about Bethany Ball’s debut.”―Alana Newhouse, New York Times Book Review
“A wry, dark multigenerational tale, full of emotional insight, about the Israeli and American branches of an extended family.”―New York Times, 10 Books We Recommend This Week
“Big-hearted, fast-paced…Ball’s debut novel is poignant and full of joy, as she weaves together the dramatic tales of these colorful Solomon clan. There is financial scandal in the asset trading business, an actress trying to make it where she can, an estranged gay son living in Asia, and the world of gossipy intrigue in the kibbutz where word of family antics travels fast and is a source of endless speculation and amusement. Ball has a keen eye for the absurdity of modern life, and a distinctive perspective.”―National Book Review, “5 Hot Books”
“A fast-paced, multigenerational, dysfunctional family drama that also bubbles over with humor and intrigue ― essentially what you might expect (or hope for) from a tale of a kibbutz family and its scattered, colorful offspring. With beautiful language and sordid details, the narrative bounces from Israel to New York to Southern California and beyond (and back and forth), with plenty of gossip gone wrong and dark secrets in between.”―Victor Wishna, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
“As with any good literary soap opera, Bethany Ball’s enjoyable debut is filled with fighting, betrayal, intergenerational misunderstandings, and a shocking secret or two.”―Cathy Layne, New York Journal of Books
“Ball switches points of view for a mosaic of family members and associates in crisis and adrift. Her terse, sharp-edged prose captures settings ranging from an American jail where highest bail is king to a French military post where they haven’t won a war since Napoleon, but they sure know how to live. For all its humor, penetrating disillusionment underlies Ball’s memorable portrait of a family, once driven by pioneer spirit, now plagued by overextension and loss of direction, unsure what to do with its legacy, teetering between resentment, remorse, and resilience.”―Publishers Weekly
“Ball, with great humor, profound wit, and notable insight, vividly captures a singular family . . . This novel from a most promising writer has been compared to the work of Isaac B. Singer and Grace Paley, as well as Nathan Englander and Jennifer Egan. Try Eudora Welty with sex and Jews.”―Booklist
“Ball’s prose is compulsively readable, almost addictive, and she has a wicked sense of humor.”―Kirkus Reviews
“What To Do About the Solomons is an absorbing debut novel that is resonant with familial dramas, grudges, and love.”―Foreword Review
“A first novel that sizzles. It’s as if Isaac Bashevis Singer were alive today, channeling The Clash and starting a new Jewish punk aesthetic. Ranging from Los Angeles to Jerusalem to a Kibbutz in the Jordan Valley, Bethany Ball has written an innovative, rollicking, wildly fun and wildly serious first novel.”―David Means, author of Hystopia: A Novel
“A riveting family drama which feels at once solidly classic and bitingly contemporary; if Transparent and A Thousand Acres snuck off and had a kid, you’d have What to Do About the Solomons. With their screw-ups, their sadnesses, their pasts catching up on them and their futures slamming in hard, these people are fascinating to be with and oddly hard to leave. Isn’t that always the way with family―as long as they’re not your own?”―Belinda McKeon, author of Tender
“Bethany Ball, in her fearless literary debut, goes deep into contemporary life to give the reader characters so alive we have met them and a story so true it takes fiction to tell it. From Israel to L.A. to New York and back, on a bridge of family, money, lies, drugs, and false accusations. For the reader, a knock on the door will never be the same.”―Scott Wolven, author of Controlled Burn
“In What to Do About the Solomons, Bethany Ball peels back the manicured surface of family and community to surgically expose a world of hurt. Told in a razor-sharp prose that takes no prisoners, this is that rare book that can make you laugh while it’s breaking your heart. I couldn’t get enough.”―David Hollander, author of L.I.E.
“Bethany Ball is a sharp, sensitive writer whose gift for details reveals, magically, whole worlds. She is both tender and relentless with her characters: her affection for them is palpable, yet she subjects them to exquisitely revealing examinations. In What to Do About the Solomons a family and its most harrowing moments come to life so completely we forget that we’re not reading about ourselves and our own families.”―Nelly Reifler, author of Elect H. Mouse State Judge
“Bethany Ball lays bare the complexities of modern life in prose that has the resonant simplicity of a fairy tale. Readers who love I. B. Singer and Grace Paley now have another writer to adore.”―Brian Morton, author of Starting Out in the Evening
Guy Gever’s father-in-law, Yakov, runs his hands through his still-black hair and nods. He strokes his sideburns. The parliament of old men, the sabras, sit around a barbecue pit with a bottle of whiskey and discuss Guy Gever. They pass the bottle and pour drabs into dusty tea glasses. Yakov sets his glass on the ground, wedging it into the dirt. He crosses his arms high across his narrow chest. Yes, Yakov says. This is true. Guy Gever has had enough leisure time. I should know. I bought his cars, financed renovations on houses I paid for, and covered all medical costs for Guy Gever’s son. When my children want money, they come to me. When their children need money, they come to me. The men nod. They defer to him, to Yakov Solomon, the most powerful man in the Jordan River Valley. I paid for their bar mitzvahs, their educations, and their therapists. I’ve paid for six weddings, five divorces, the funeral of one daughter-in-law’s father, and countless birthday celebrations.
Now I must pay for Guy Gever’s madness?
The men nod and grunt and drink to Yakov Solomon.
Guy Gever hears about the parliament from his younger brother, Itai, who heard it from Elon, who is the son of Yakov’s middle brother Ishke. Guy Gever squats down to the ground and spits. He draws a woman in the dirt with his finger. He stands up again and shouts, That man! For ten years I’ve been Yakov Solomon’s slave. Why doesn’t he die already?
And leave everything to you, says Itai, who is lo gamur, not finished, funny in the head. That would be something.