What to Do About the Solomons

Atlantic Monthly Press  2017


Talk about salacious! In her debut novel, What to Do About the Solomons, Bethany Ball leaves no stone unturned as she gradually divulges the inner psyches, darkest secrets, and most problematic idiosyncrasies of her kibbutznik characters. Lust, drugs, money, and other excesses are no strangers to the Solomon family. Lovers of classic Jewish literature and gossip rags unite: this one’s got something for everyone.

Each member of the Solomon family is beautifully, painstakingly, and uniquely flawed. Patriarch Yakov is the kibbutz heavyweight, who snagged the most stunning woman, a Sephardi, on the commune and has no problem playing favorites with his children. Vivienne, his wife, is the only person who’s not completely enamored of her effervescent husband. Daughter Shira is an aging starlet and seductress, travelling, shopping, and smoking away her small fortune while her adolescent son, Joseph, pines for his mother. Prodigal son Marc has left behind the glory of being an ex-Navy commando for a life in LA with his enigmatic American wife, Carolyn, and their children. But things begin to look less and less glamorous for Marc when he’s accused of money laundering through his asset management firm and his riches are lost. The other adult children, Ziv, Dror, and Keren have troubles of their own. And then there’s the family’s neighbors and friends from the kibbutz, like Marc’s childhood sweetheart, Maya, engulfed in her own struggles as she yearns desperately for the love that got away.

Through her telling of the Solomon family sagas, Ball explores the dichotomies of Israeli society and, more broadly, life in general. She grapples with religion and secularism, war and peace, liberalism and conservatism, socialism and communism, wealth and poverty, and Europe, America, and Israel. Readers will find themselves easily and eagerly turning the pages of What to do About the Solomons, thanks in part to a burning desire to know what will be revealed about the various members of the Solomon family as the book progresses. That said, what’s truly striking about the novel is the substance the author conveys in her fluid and airy prose. Audiences will find themselves transfixed by certain sentences, reading them over and over, shocked to see their own internal experience reflected on the page before them.

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