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Novel Of Jewish Familial Strife Among Finalists For Prestigious Prize

Bethany Ball’s debut novel, “What to do About the Solomons,” has made the short list for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Her book, set between California and Israel, tells the story of a Jewish family beset by financial scandal.

The other finalists are “As Lie is to Grin” by Simeon Marsalis, “Empire of Glass” by Kaitlin Solimine, “Mikhail and Margarita” by Julie Lekstrom Hines, “The Second Mrs. Hockaday” by Susan Rivers, “Spaceman in Bohemia” by Jaroslav Kalfar, and “Tiger Pelt” by Annabelle Kim. The author of the winning book, to be announced on December 5, will be awarded $10,000.

Past winners of the prize, which was founded in 2006, include Junot Diaz’s 2007 “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and Viet Tranh Nguyen’s 2015 “The Sympathizer.”

“Ball’s story swivels its spotlight from one twisted character and association to another,” wrote Alana Newhouse, reviewing “What to do About the Solomons” for The New York Times. “She works hard to render each with sensitivity and respect, a dedication that also makes her fabulously unafraid to mark her characters with signs of psychosis and brutality, as well as the kind of contemptuous wit that can distinguish a long-term relationship.”

“Like many writers of humorous, dark Jewish stories, Ball will inevitably be compared to the master, Isaac Bashevis Singer,” Newhouse noted.

The winner will be announced at the Center for Fiction’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on December 5th.

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