What to Do About the Solomons

Bethany Ball. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2457-9
Respected leader at his kibbutz, founder of a thriving construction business, 75-year-old patriarch Yakov Solomon is fed up with his children in Ball’s debut novel about a prosperous, beleaguered Israeli family. Yakov no longer speaks to eldest son Ziv, who lives in Singapore with another man; middle son Dror suffers from severe sibling envy; rich and successful Marc’s California investment firm faces criminal investigation; daughter Keren’s husband, Guy, cannot control his artistic impulses; and daughter Shira, whose acting career peaked with a bit part in a Harry Potter movie, leaves her 11-year-old son, Joseph, home alone while she visits Hollywood. Money can’t solve their problems, and medication—prescribed or illegal—only makes them worse. Marc returns to the kibbutz, his wife stoned, his childhood sweetheart suicidal, his future uncertain, while Joseph assists his half-brother’s attempt to run away from army service. Clearly, the Solomons have come a long way from the ideals of the kibbutz in early years. 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. Agent: Duvall Osteen, the Aragi Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/06/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
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