“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
The national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book 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 from one of America's most gifted writers of fiction, "our own country's Alice Munro" (The Washington Post).
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
About the Author
Joan Silber is the author of nine books of fiction. Her book Improvement was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award 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. She lives in New York and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. Find out more at joansilber.net.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER Winner of the 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction Long–listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
“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
“This is a novel of richness and wisdom and huge pleasure. Silber knows, and reveals, how close we live to the abyss, but she also revels in joy, particularly the joy that comes from intimate relationships . . . A perfectly balanced mix of celebration and wryness.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Both the plot and the prose maintain an absorbing momentum.” —The New Yorker
“It feels vital to love Silber’s work, which has been too little loved, too little mentioned, beyond a small readership that seems to be composed mostly of other writers. Silber is 72, and with Improvement has written at least three truly great books. 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. She has an American voice: silvery, within arm’s length of old cadences, but also limber, thieving, marked by occasional raids on slang and jargon, at ease both high and low, funny, tenderhearted, sharp. It gives her the rare ability to reach the deepest places in the plainest ways.” —The Washington Post
“There's always room for Joan Silber's Improvement.” —Vanity Fair
“If your must–read this month is a love–and–loss story seasoned with single motherhood and smuggling schemes, National Book Award finalist Joan Silber's Improvement hits the sexy sweet spot from page one.” —Elle
“My revelation of the year was the writing of Joan Silber . . . I was immediately captivated by her fictional method, a cross between the novel and linked stories, in which a minor character in one chapter will become a major figure in another. This connect–the–dots narrative structure makes possible wide leaps over time and space, while still offering that sense of connection and emotional depth that makes the best fiction so satisfying.” —Ruth Franklin, The Paris Review
“I am embarrassed to admit that I missed Joan Silber’s Improvement when it first came out, in 2017, but not so embarrassed that I won’t still recommend it now. It’s that good.” —Alessandra Codinha, Vogue
“Improvement is a tapestry of interweaving narratives tied together by two unconventional women—an aunt and her niece who defy family expectations . . . That Silber is a writer’s writer just means that her diverse cast of characters never feel anything but authentic, and her prose is both precise on the sentence level and masterly in structure.” —Vulture
“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)