Ball, Bethany. “What to Do About the Solomons”, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017.
An Extended Family
At first Bethany Ball’s “What to Do About the Solomons,” seems to be a dark multigenerational story about the Israeli and American branches of an extended family. It covers from the early 1900s to today and from the suburban Los Angeles neighborhoods of greater Los Angeles to the confines of a gossip-soaked kibbutz. Ball sidesteps the Middle East’s many crises and instead puts the focus on individuals in the domestic world.
At the center is a financial scandal in California that threatens to take down Marc Solomon. We then begin to meet twisted characters and learn their association to each other.
Marc has a theory that no one loves anyone after a certain age. He believes that we are really incapable of that kind of love. Yet the novel is full of affection. In fact, the reader loves the Solomons.
The Solomons’ lives like a family who desperately need their secrets to be told. It is through gossip that they know about each other. The novel deals with sex, drugs, and family conflict and does so with candor. The family patriarch Yakov Solomon who is wealthy yet he complains to his Sabra peers that he is still supporting his adult children and their families. We learn that now he must deal with Guy Gever (Hebrew for male), his son-in-law and the only happy member of the family while others see him as loony. Yakov’s wife Vivienne thinks they should send Guy to America, where “there are more mental hospitals than regular ones.”
We soon see that each of the Solomons is unhappy in his or her own way. Marc who is a former Navy Seal and living the good life in California, is falsely accused of money laundering, arrested in his own offices, and led to jail in handcuffs. Meanwhile, his unsuspecting American wife Carolyn finds the LAPD at her home and go through something of a home invasion. This is a beautifully written look at family that is so well written that it is hard to believe that it is a first novel.