Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction. Her previous book, Fools (2013), was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World (2008), Ideas of Heaven (2004), Lucky Us (2001), In My Other Life (2000), In the City (1987) and Household Words (1980), winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. She is also the author of The Art of Time in Fiction (2009). In 2018 she received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story. She lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program.
Ethan’s father is outed as a man living a double life with another family on the other, less salubrious, side of New York. Who are they? Certainly nothing like Ethan; this newly-discovered household are Thai, live in Queens and serve and wash dishes at the local Thai restaurant. He, meanwhile, is a lawyer residing in West Village, often found in Katz. This discovery introduces us to an ensemble cast and we delve deep into their lives until a bigger picture unfolds. After Ethan we hear from others; some tell us about losing parents, bailing out siblings on the other side of the world, leaving lovers and rekindling old flames. Silber is as incise and skewering as Woody Allen, delivering needle-sharp observation that we associate with the best American writers. But it’s the ghost of Charles Dickens who’s really flickering on the margins and Silber takes on his themes of family inheritance, class and wealth to underpin her characters’ search for happiness.
'Improvement is a major work of literature.' - Nick Hornby, The Believer Reyna knows her relationship with Boyd isn't perfect, yet as she visits him throughout his three-month stint in prison, their bond grows tighter. Kiki, now settled in New York 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 honourable Boyd is pulling Reyna into a scheme which violates his 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 and as colourful 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.
One of O: The Oprah Magazine's Most Anticipated Books of 2021 One of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 picks for Spring 2021 Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family - a wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year travelling abroad, returning much changed, just as her now ex-husband falls ill. Across town, Ethan's half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother struck about love and money continue to shape all their lives. As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to touch many other figures, revealing secret currents of empathy and loyalty, the bounty of improvised families and the paradoxical ties that weave through life's rich contours. With a generous and humane spirit, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand in an effort to find joy.
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 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.