Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

What to Do About the Solomons

by Bethany Ball

From a remarkable new voice in fiction comes a transporting debut, a hilarious multigenerational family saga set in Israel, New York, and Los Angeles that explores the secrets and gossip-filled lives of a kibbutz community near Jerusalem.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date April 04, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2457-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $25.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date April 04, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9072-7
  • US List Price $25.00

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.

Tags Literary


“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

“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 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

“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

“Bethany Ball is a sharp, sensitive writer whose gift for details–a gesture, an article of clothing, a square stone, a meal eaten by a lonely, neglected ten-year-old–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. We’re lucky she does, for here 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


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.

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