Improvement (Silber) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Improvement … then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe Reyna. What is the significance of the fact that her body art is "piecemeal"? In what way is Reyna's life like her tattoos? When she tries to explain to Kiki that tattoos are no different than patterns on rugs, Kiki asks her, "are you a floor"? Is she? 

2. What do you think of Boyd? Why does Reyna raise no protest when Boyd comes up with his get-rich-quick scheme to smuggle cigarettes? Were you screaming an internal "nooooo!" at some of her decisions? Why is Reyna so attracted to him?

3. Talk about the similarities, or at least commonalities, between Reyna and Darisse. Why does Darisse hesitate with Silas?

4. What is the reason that Teddy falls apart after the accident? To what degree is he responsible for all the dysfunction, and now the accident, in his life?

5. As a young adventurist, Kiki led a colorful life in Turkey. But she came to see herself as "flung about by the winds of love." What does she mean? How has her experience colored her attitude toward life when we meet her early on in the novel?

6. Of the many characters in the novel (were there too many?), whom do you find most sympathetic and why? Who most exasperated you and why?

7. All of the characters reach a point at which they seem to ask a question central to the novel: how does one avoid assuming responsibility for the results of one's action and choices — all the while pretending to have control over life's outcomes? How does that question pertain to each of the characters?

    How do you answer that question as regards to your own life? Are you responsible for your destiny? Are any of us? Or is life a series of accidents and random occurrences over which we have little control? Isn't it fair to say that chance far too often intervenes and throws our plans and best intentions awry (aka the butterfly effect)? Or might you say it's how we respond to random chance that determines the degree of our control? What does the novel seem to suggest the answer to the question is?

8. What role does love play in Improvement? "People thought love was everything, but … surely too much was asked of love." Even the sign at the vet's office where Reyna works warns: "New Puppy? Love is not Enough." Do you agree? Or is that a cynical view? Isn't love the very thing we need more of? Or is love "not enough" because we misunderstand the meaning of love?

9. What is the significance of the book's title, "Improvement"?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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