Improvement One of our most gifted writers of fiction returns with a bold and piercing novel about a young single mother living in Harlem her eccentric aunt and the decisions they make that have unexpected impl

  • Title: Improvement
  • Author: Joan Silber
  • ISBN: 9781619029606
  • Page: 313
  • Format: Hardcover
  • One of our most gifted writers of fiction returns with a bold and piercing novel about a young single mother living in Harlem, 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 she sees him through a three month stint at Riker s Island, their bond growing tOne of our most gifted writers of fiction returns with a bold and piercing novel about a young single mother living in Harlem, 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 she sees him through a three month stint at Riker s Island, their bond growing tighter Kiki, now settled in the East Village after a youth that took her to Turkey and other far off places and loves around the world, admires her niece s spirit but worries that motherhood to four year old Oliver might complicate a difficult situation Little does she know that Boyd is pulling Reyna into a smuggling scheme, across state lines, violating his probation When Reyna takes a step back, 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, repayment, 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 said No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with subtlety and power, and Improvement is Silber s most shining achievement.

    One thought on “Improvement”

    1. The butterfly effect ably displayed in literary form. We start with an aunt, KiKi, who has had a varied life, but is now living fairly close to her neice, Reyna. Reyna has a young son, but visits her boyfriend who is serving a short term at Rikers. When he gets out, he and his friends, hatch a money making scheme, which if discovered could carry serious penalties. Reyna, in a moment of weakness, makes a decision that she later rescinds. This would have a snowball effect on many lives.A decision [...]

    2. This is my first novel by noted author Joan Silber and I was immediately consumed by her easy, natural writing style and the theme--that of the butterfly effect--is one that I am often drawn to in literature. In this novel, the effect of one person’s choice affects what happens to another which leaves yet a third with questions and another grappling with the aftermath. I’m being intentionally vague as the concept is what gives this novel its significance and it is best left for the reader to [...]

    3. In chaos theory, it is said that if a butterfly flutters its wings, a typhoon can ultimately occur halfway around the world. Put another way, even the smallest step changes lives immeasurably.And so it is in this satisfying new novel by Joan Silber. Reyna is involved with a petty thief named Boyd, who is doing time at Rikers Island. He leaves the stint mostly unrepentant and soon enough, Reyna is drawn into his cigarette smuggling scheme. As the mother of a toddler, she backs away, setting in mo [...]

    4. My first Joan Silber, an author unknown to me until the shortlisting of Improvement in this year’s (2018) National Book Critics Circle Award.I enjoyed the read, the prose is easy, and this set of linked stories are relatively uncomplicated and gently revealed.There are two clearly signposted themes in the stories. Firstly, that of the interconnectedness of life - the butterfly effect; secondly the endeavours we undertake to improve our lives, not least through our connection with lovers, who m [...]

    5. It’s a Connected WorldDarisse was secretly becoming more religious, but in private; she had her own rituals. She sat on her bed with her eyes closed; she thought of the walls of the room turning into air. Air from a larger space. The point was to ask for strength. Improvement wasn’t coming any other way. She was doing this almost every night and there was an aftereffect that pleased her.First, some background. I have been interested in Joan Silber ever since reading her Ideas of Heaven in 20 [...]

    6. IMPROVEMENT is a novel, mostly centered in New York, but also Berlin and Turkey, about people trying to improve their lives, despite the small or catastrophic tragedies that changed their position or outlook. The people in Silber’s cast are either related to each other by family; their circumstances; by a generation; or by several degrees of separation. In some instances, they are intimately associated with each other, or acquainted, but at times, it is only a casual or chance agency that is r [...]

    7. Interlocking stories form the backbone of this novel (Silber has used a similar technique before in her collection of stories, Fools: Stories). The book consists of stories told by several very different people: Reyna, a single mother living in Harlem who is in love with a petty thief, her aunt who lives in the Village and who lived for a number of years in Turkey, the daughter of one of the women Kiki (the aunt) met in Turkey who is connected to the sister of a friend of the first story. The bo [...]

    8. It’s early on Christmas morning as I write this, having just finished Joan Silber’s dynamo offering, Improvement. Fittingly I’m pondering how I too can improve: as a father, husband, family member, friend, writer, enthusiast. I imagine I’ll be granted temporary reprieve the moment my daughter wakes up and sees that Santa was very generous this year. It’ll be an area I shan’t need any immediate improvement in (for at least a half hour); Silber’s novel, however, had me contemplating [...]

    9. I read this in a few hours but in the end I was like "huh?" I didn't get how the stories worked together or feel much. The voice keeps a distance. Yet the writing and voice are hypnotic.

    10. I've read several Joan Silber novels and I'm always pulled into the worlds she builds with a few deft passages about the interior lives of her characters. In this short novel (less than 200 pages) we meet and follow the lives of several characters who are connected by brief encounters and a fateful decision.Silber doesn't shy away from questioning our morality and she always demonstrates the power of empathy and love. But her prose isn't overwritten, nor flowery. It's straightforward, direct, an [...]

    11. In the spirit of the award-winning movie Babel, this book, which identifies as a novel, is actually a series of interlocking stories that blend seamlessly one into the other despite shifts in geography and time. Beginning and ending with the story of Reyna, a young single mother with a toddler living in present-day Harlem, the episodes range to Turkey in the '70's, Germany, the '80's, and back again to Manhattan, finishing up with Reyna who finds redemption in an action that ties all the seeming [...]

    12. Definitely well-written but I had a difficult time staying with it. I had a difficult time staying with the changing characters. I realize the disparate characters were the point of the story, but still.

    13. The novel starts out with a young Kiki on a trip to Turkey, where she meets Osman and marries. Next we find her in NYC in her fifties serving as a mentor to her niece Reyna. Reyna has a child but is estranged from the father and is involved with Boyd who is serving a term in Rikers. When Boyd is released he hatches a plan with a group of friends to smuggle cigarettes into the city. What I really enjoyed about this novel was how this plan affected the characters that were peripheral as well as th [...]

    14. A single mother in Harlem, an independent aunt with a youthful past in Turkey, and the decisions they’ve made including the implications that result. A story of that ties each of us has to one another, whether we are aware of it or not. Like the rugs Kiki sold in Turkey, each of author Joan Silber’s characters are intricately woven into one another. Improvement establishes itself to be an incredible work of fiction as Silber skillfully ensnares the reader by lending each character a writing [...]

    15. Review published: chronicbibliophilia.wordpress“Everyone knows this can happen. People travel and they find places they like so much they think they’ve risen to their best selves just by being there. They feel distant from everyone at home who can’t begin to understand. They take up with beautiful locals of the opposite sex, they settle in, they get used to how everything works, they make homes. But maybe not forever.”In “Improvement”, Joan Silber conducts some experiments with form [...]

    16. I loved this book. Sometimes just when I was just getting bored the most pointed moment would reveal itself. And there is lots of talk about love: how much we expect of it, how much of it is floating out in the world waiting to be claimed, how weighty it is and how lucky we are when we are in its presence. "For a heardheaded person, she let herself be flung about by the winds of love, and she wasn't sorry about it either." Mostly these interlocking stories reveal how much we expect life to be on [...]

    17. 4.5 Stars. This is one of those times when I wish that I hadn’t read so many reviews ahead of the book. Joan Silber is a wonderful writer, but at times I found myself a bit underwhelmed due to all of the hype surrounding the novel. The book is written like a group of short stories, though all of the “stories” are artfully connected through the characters. Like short stories, some are better than others. I absolutely loved the Reyna/Boyd/Kiki/Oliver storyline. Kiki is single mom Reyna’s s [...]

    18. In this novel of interconnected stories, each chapter represents the point of view of another character, and all are connected in some way by action or relationship. Silber's theme of the interconnectedness and long-range consequences of our actions on other's lives is played out here among the stories, which take us across the country and continents.Very well-written, with nice action, and deep character development. I liked the book a lot.

    19. "He didn't even like her entirely, not the way she was now and maybe not even then, but he wanted a minute for remembering that it had been a great thing to be young with her." (103)Silber makes the most pithy thoughts of her characters land with great force.

    20. I picked this novel up because it is one of the five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. In doing background reading, I've come to understand Joan Silber has quite the cult following among lit-fic types, and I wonder how it is I'm only now discovering her work. Just goes to show, there are great writers out there undiscovered by many readers, even devoted readers who love and live in the world of fiction, as do I.This is a novel constructed from interconnected short [...]

    21. Joan Silber is an American novelist and short story writer. She is the author of “Household Words” which won a PEN/Hemingway Award and “Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories” which was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award. She has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.And yet, prior to learning of her new novel, Improvement, I had never heard of her!!I read Improvement because it was on the BBC’s [...]

    22. I won this book on .A series of interrelated stories that all spin off from the characters and situations introduced in the first one, the author's underlying theme seems to be that all of our actions and interactions, however inconsequential they may seem, have ramifications far beyond the original situation and/or intent, the "butterfly effect" in action.Some of the stories worked better for me than others. My favorite one concerned a very peripheral character--the truck driver involved in an [...]

    23. I was settling into a 5-star novel, I thought, fascinated with the story of young New Yorker mom Reyna, her 4-year old son Oliver, and worldly aunt Kiki-- also the boyfriend spending time in Rikers Prison. But after chapter 2, I saw this was not to be. The book turned out to be more like a series of connected short stories rather than a novel, and some of the stories are never resolved-- poor Darisse was left hanging! The characters in these chapters are associated, sometimes distantly, with Rey [...]

    24. I love Joan Silber’s writing. “Improvement” is a beautifully written intricate novel with tenuous connections that deepen the poignancy and emotions of the multiple narrative threads. Three women’s voices form the core of the narrative – Reyna, a young single mother in Manhattan, Kiki her aunt who spent almost 10 years living in Turkey when she was young and now lives a bohemian single life in lower Manhattan and Monika a woman born and raised in Germany, but now living with her Americ [...]

    25. A very entertaining (if not exactly earth-shattering) read.A young East Coast Jewish single mother has a boyfriend in prison, and an aunt who spent many years during the 1970's in Turkey. The novel flutters back and forth between these (and way too many other) characters, in something like a series of interrelated stories.I enjoyed the glimpses of rural Turkey many decades ago, and the sassy voice of the main character. We watch her fall into crime, with more-or-less good intentions, and deal wi [...]

    26. This novel approaches being a collection short stories around related characters over time, like Go Down Moses. Another novel with a downward mobile female protagonist [I just finished House of Sand and Fog and Disgrace] Reyna trades her leafy Boston suburbs for a Harlem housing project and a boyfriend in Rikers. After he gets out his friends hatch a new plan - buttlegging - buying cigarettes in VA and selling them in NY to take advantage of the gross tax difference - like $5 a pack. It adds up. [...]

    27. Improvement is a stunning work, full of subtlety and insight, conveying an understanding of how ordinary people struggle to make something of their lives. Silber is particularly good at exploring her characters’ personal relationships—with all their needs, joys, frustrations, and fulfillments. She often challenges the reader to separate fact from what her characters believe is fact. She drives the challenge home when one character’s life is turned around by an anonymous gift that she wrong [...]

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