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Improvement (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

A wry storytelling style, skill at making connections between seemingly random events and making the complicated seem simple, not to mention a big heart, char- acterize Silber’s intimate, elegant work. The connections in this tale are provided by a Turkish carpet and a car crash; the complications involve weaving the seem- ingly unconnected people and events into a surprising and compelling whole; and Silber’s big heart is evident in the compassion she lavishes on the most doubtful of her characters. Reyna, niece of Kiki and mother of 5-year-old Oliver, has been given a Turkish rug by her aunt who ac- quired said carpet from a long-ago lover in Turkey. Kiki’s adventures abroad included tangential involvement with a trio of Germans en- gaged in smuggling ancient artifacts, while in America a generation later Reyna is likewise tangentially involved with a group engaged in smuggling. Her decision to disentangle herself results in a car crash that forces the characters into a dance of cause and effect, steps and missteps, which ultimately involves everyone. Reyna, Kiki and Oliver in particular will stay in your heart long after the last page is turned— as will the vision of hope that hovers over the imperfect but mostly redeemable cast of characters. 

— From Betsy Burton

December 2017 Indie Next List

“Improvement is a wide-ranging novel told in stories that connect disparate people through time and place to one tragic accident. Kiki, a free-spirited young adult of the 1970s turned wise woman, is the novel's lodestar. Silber masterfully pulls together the threads of lives in places as remote as rural Turkey and as common and close as New York City like a finely made Persian rug.”
— Arsen Kashkashian, The Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO






Named 1 of 50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2017 by The Washington Post
Named 1 of 10 Top Fiction Titles of 2017 by the Wall Street Journal
A Newsday Best Book of 2017
A Kirkus Best Book of 2017
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

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.

"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

" 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

About the Author

JOAN SILBER is the author of eight books of fiction and the recipient of the 2018 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. The most recent, Improvement, is the winner of the 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. and was listed as one of the year's best books by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, the Seattle Times, and Kirkus Reviews. Her previous book, Fools, was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World, finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, and Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. She lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781619029606
ISBN-10: 161902960X
Publisher: Counterpoint LLC
Publication Date: November 14th, 2017
Pages: 256
Language: English