Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
"There is something so refreshing and genuine about this book, coming partly from the bumpy weave of its unpredictable story and partly from its sharply turned yet refreshingly unmannered prose. A winner." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
One of our most gifted writers of fiction returns with a bold and piercing novel about a young single mother living in New York, her eccentric aunt, and the decisions they make that have unexpected implications for the world around them.
Reyna knows her relationship with Boyd isn't perfect, yet as she visits him throughout his three-month stint at Rikers Island, their bond grows tighter. Kiki, now settled in the East Village after a journey that took her to Turkey and around the world, admires her niece's spirit but worries that she always picks the wrong man. Little does she know that the otherwise honorable Boyd is pulling Reyna into a cigarette smuggling scheme, across state lines, where he could risk violating probation. When Reyna ultimately decides to remove herself for the sake of her four-year-old child, her small act of resistance sets into motion a tapestry of events that affect the lives of loved ones and strangers around them.
A novel that examines conviction, connection, and the possibility of generosity in the face of loss, Improvement is as intricately woven together as Kiki's beloved Turkish rugs, as colorful as the tattoos decorating Reyna's body, with narrative twists and turns as surprising and unexpected as the lives all around us. The Boston Globe says of Joan Silber: "No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with more subtlety and power." Improvement is Silber's most shining achievement yet.
“[I]t feels vital to love Silber’s work. . . Now is the moment to appreciate that she is here, in our midst: our country’s own Alice Munro. Silber’s great theme as a writer is the way in which humans are separated from their intentions, by desires, ideas, time. . . Like Grace Paley and Lucia Berlin, she’s a master of talking a story past its easiest meaning; like Munro, a master of the compression and dilation of time, what time and nothing else can reveal to people about themselves.” Washington Post
“Without fuss or flourishes, Joan Silber weaves a remarkably patterned tapestry connecting strangers from around the world to a central tragic car accident. The writing here is funny and down-to-earth, the characters are recognizably fallible, and the message is quietly profound: We are not ever really alone, however lonely we feel.” The Wall Street Journal, 1 of 10 top fiction titles of 2017
"In her far ranging latest, Silber (Fools) delivers a whirlwind narrative reminiscent of her compact story collections in novel form with mixed results. Told in three parts and jumping back and forth from the 1970s to 2012, the multipronged story drops in on the lives of loosely connected individuals all trying (and mostly failing) to improve their lot in some way. . . . With so many characters it’s a lot of ground to cover in little space and some of the subplots lack the depth needed to make this a fully cohesive ensemble novel. (Nov.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Joan Silber is the author of the story collection Fools, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her first novel, Household Words, won the PEN/Hemingway Award. She has published five other books of fiction, including Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. She’s been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Agni, Ploughshares, Boulevard, and Epoch, among others. Joan teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Learn more about joansilber.net.