Improvement

Joan Silber. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61902-960-6
In her far-ranging latest, Silber (Fools) delivers a whirlwind narrative reminiscent of her compact story collections in novel form, with mixed results. Told in three parts and jumping back and forth from the 1970s to 2012, the multipronged story drops in on the lives of loosely connected individuals, all trying (and mostly failing) to improve their lot in some way. Reyna, a white single mother living in Harlem, is torn between staying loyal to her African-American boyfriend Boyd (after his three-month sentence at Rikers Island for selling weed) and getting more deeply involved in the interstate cigarette smuggling scheme Boyd hatched with his cousin and pals. When she pulls out of a smuggling run at the last minute, her decision sets off a chain reaction with dire consequences for one of Boyd’s friends, his love interest left stranded in another state, and a truck driver. Add to that the backstory of Reyna’s great-aunt Kiki’s marriage to a Turkish rug seller turned farmer, the tangential stories of three German antiquities smugglers who stop by Kiki’s farm for a night and leave a lasting impression, and a jump forward 30 years to find one of the German smugglers in the hospital dying of heart disease. With so many characters, it’s a lot of ground to cover in little space, and some of the subplots lack the depth needed to make this a fully cohesive ensemble novel. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 11/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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