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.
Reyna is a single mother living in Harlem and standing by her not so perfect boyfriend, Boyd, as she visits him during his 3 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 remover 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 was 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 and improve their existence.
Very enjoyable read.
About the Author:
Joan Silber is the author of six previous works of fiction. Among many awards and honors, she has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.