Where Readers and Writers Meet

Impact On Countries & Time: Joan Silber’s “Improvement”

in Fiction by
Image courtesy of amazon

Connecting 1970s Turkey and New York today, 72-year-old author Joan Silber, winner of the 2018 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, weaves a tapestry of interpersonal connections and shows how relationships bind us together and decisions have widespread impact across countries and over time in her latest novel, Improvement (Amazon Digital Services).

Reyna is a single mother living in Harlem and standing by her not-so-perfect boyfriend, Boyd, as she visits him during his three-month incarceration at Riker’s. Her Aunt Kiki lives in the Village after spending some time in Turkey and traveling the world in her younger days.  Kiki worries about Reyna and her young son Oliver and is unaware of the illegal activities Boyd, Reyna and their friends are involved with.

When Reyna is asked to drive the car in a cigarette smuggling heist, she makes a crucial decision to remove herself from the dangerous antics, and that sets off a series of events with a ripple effect that pervades countries and time, affecting people they know and strangers alike.

The book was written in three parts, a novel but with a feel of linked stories: parts 1 and 3 told in first person, and the middle a narrative necessary to fill in all the holes with description and stories of the past, colorfully adding to the context and connecting further the characters and situations.  Joan Silber expertly intertwines the complexities of people’s lives as they each make decisions to try to improve their existence.

Very enjoyable read.

Improvement is now available to purchase.

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Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction–her most recent is Improvement, fall 2017. 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, Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize, and Household Words, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections, and in The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. She’s known for stories that leap over long blocks of time, and this led her to write The Art of Time in Fiction. She lives in Manhattan and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program. Her website is joansilber.net.

Jennifer Gans Blankfein is a freelance marketing consultant and book reviewer. She graduated from Lehigh University with a Psychology degree and has a background in advertising. Her experience includes event coordination and fundraising along with editing a weekly, local, small business newsletter. Jennifer loves to talk about books, is an avid reader, and currently writes a book blog, Book Nation by Jen. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons and black lab.

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