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The Island Dwellers: Stories

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  172 ratings  ·  48 reviews
For readers of Miranda July, Rebecca Lee, and Mary Gaitskill, a debut short-story collection that is a mesmerizing blend of wit, transgression, and heart.

A passive-aggressive couple in the midst of a divorce compete over whose new fling is more exotic. A Russian migrant in Tokyo agonizes over the money her lover accepts from a yakuza. A dead body on a drug dealer's floor
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Random House
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  172 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe ever (wo)man is an island after all. Not a stationary one, more like a coasting island, waiting to meet up with other islands to save themselves from a terrible loneliness seems to be inherent and oppressive. Anyway, that seems to be the leitmotif of Silverman’s short story collection, established prominently in the first one and continuing throughout. And not just metaphorically either, she literally sets these stories on the islands, namely New York and Japan, possibly the loneliest of t ...more
Mary Lins
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
"The thing about paranoia in the twenty-first Century is that, at some point, it's impossible to know if you're crazy, or if you're astute."

Jen Silverman's short story collection, "The Island Dwellers", is full of wry observations like the one above. Her wit; humorous sarcasm and insightful irony, infuse all the stories in this immensely enjoyable collection. Certainly telegraphed by the title, themes of isolation, entrapment, and escape are predominant. What happens when characters do not have
Kasa Cotugno
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is that rare gem, a collection that is unfailingly excellent from first to last. Those readers who choose short stories know this is a fact - very seldom does one pick up a book of short stories and find that each provides clear insight, original execution without a clinker in the mix. Silverman's accuracy in dialogue comes from her prodigious output as a dramatist, and her direct portrayals of women (all her first person narrators are women) usually living in countries and situations outsi ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it

What I most enjoyed about Jen Silverman's collection of short stories, 'The Island Dwellers', is that nothing seemed off limits. Emotions as raw as sand paper shared pages with emotions as smooth as an infant's skin;

The stories take place in several parts of the world. The second one in the collection, 'Pretoria', explores what it's like to be in an intimacy averse relationship. Or perhaps there is more going on here. Daniela, a South African, has been living in Japan with her Japanese boyfrien
Bonnye Reed
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GNab The Island Dwellers is a loosely connected collection of short stories featuring backgrounds around the world and young people, mostly adrift, who are looking to connect to life. In places it was quite sad, and others portrayed simple lackadaisical life-goes-on tales. This didn't work, so we will move on, to the next island, the next job, the next party.

I found the information shared about the various locales intriguing - a completely different look at world centers such as Singapore and J
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Most of the stories in this collection are about the island of Japan and the characters are a mix of native Japanese and gaigin, foreigners, in this case westerners of everywhere other than Japan and the clash and mesh between the groups. Silverman’s prose is lovely and understated yet emotive. The main characters are young, mostly under age thirty, and they’re risk takers at best or flighty sensation seekers, at worst they have a death wish.

Some work as “host boys or girls” which is something l
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
vai my blog:
'I am concerned because Camilo is inherently clumsy with things like words and money and other people’s feelings.'

I devoured these interconnected stories that are about being shipwrecked in loneliness yet in constant motion, and every character seems to be in a sort of emotional underground. There was something so funny to me about Girl Canadian Shipwreck, the performance art had me laughing about the discomfort the girlfriend feels when she’s m
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Playwright Jen Silverman's deliciously addictive debut short story collection, THE ISLAND DWELLERS, collects 11 stories mostly set on the islands of New York City and Tokyo, Japan. Each story is told from a first-person perspective, but many of the characters make appearances in more than one tale. We first meet the beguiling and brash Ancash in "Maria of the Grapes" when club hostess Maria tries to seduce him. When she discovers he's a gay prostitute, their friendship expands until they fall in ...more
Donna Davis
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, especially travelers
Jen Silverman is a playwright with a list of awards as long as your arm. With this impressive collection of short stories, she steps into the world of prose with guns a-blazing. Thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the DRC, which I received free and early in exchange for this honest review. This book is now for sale.

Silverman’s contemporary fiction is themed, as the title suggests, around people that live on islands in various parts of the world. Everything here is edgy and a little bit
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

I think that The Island Dwellers makes some pretty broad claims about the questions and themes Silverman will explore - and I think it largely succeeds. Just in the first two stories alone - which kind of set the tone for the entire collection - these issues are grappled with. We are asked about how we make sense of home and our relationships to others around us. There's something
Claude Bouchard
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
NOTE: I am reviewing this from an advance reader copy. This book will be published in May 2018.

This is a collection of short stories, focusing on people from various countries (Russia, US, Canada, Columbia) living abroad (mostly in Japan, though a few are in Manhattan), and in which a few characters recur in multiple stories. There are eleven stories. The book started off on a tiresome and irritating note, unfortunately...the first story, titled "Canadian Girl Shipwreck" (AWESOME title!), suffe
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Man, when I saw it said this was for readers of Miranda July and Rebecca Lee, I was like, "Ooh! Must try this."..I was disappointed. Mostly I hate that many of the protagonists are all so troubled, messed up, and.. kind of cliche. Ooh a damaged young person with low self-esteem, wow there's something new..many of the stories are dreamy and full of stuff that doesn't seem much like it'd happen in any real world.. One story especially bothered me, because the idea of a story where the narrator int ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I hoped, while reading this collection, for a wider range of themes and settings. But overall, a well-written and sharply observed set of stories that embrace the way that the world and our handling of human interaction and relationships within it, has changed. We are free to travel, to love, to love multiple people, to create art and life and home in ways we haven’t been before, but that freedom has yet to shelter us from the realities of loneliness, of feeling displaced, of not knowing if we’r ...more
And while the city beat time all around me like a vast heart, I told myself the beginning of a story: Once upon a time there were two runaways in a jungle—neon tigers all around, so beautiful, every sharp tooth another TV screen, fluorescent tongues, grapes for the plucking, fat bunches of grapes for the bold, a night without darkness, a fall without end. [from "Maria of the Grapes"]

A gorgeous collection of loosely-connected short stories. The protagonists (nearly all young women) are people adr
Jordan Stivers
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Island Dwellers is a fascinating collection of loosely-related stories set in the US and Japan. The tone of each is interesting: the bright, garish lights of Tokyo and NYC flicker against the shadows within each of the characters. The darkness is a comforting place for many of them and Silverman does a fantastic job painting each unique narrator while giving us a picture of the world around them.

Even as some of the characters inhabit the same neighborhoods, they each see something different
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway-winner
I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoy short stories and I figured let’s give it a chance!

First heads up: this book has a lot of profanity and sexual situations, this was not a problem for me, but I know this book won’t be for everyone.

This was not the genre of book I’d typically read. The characters all live in Japan or the United States and go through a variety of life situations involving love and friendship. The majority of stories feature feminist and/or LGBT characteristic
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A collection of achingly sad, achingly lovely short stories. Though it took me a while to realize, each story focuses on a dysfunctional relationship. As the old Tolstoy adage goes, each one is dysfunctional in its own way.

Reading this will make you question whether you, too, are in a dysfunctional relationship, but the island dwellers Jen Silverman conjures up are more desperate, more lonely, and more twisted than most of us will likely ever be. And in that sense, like waking up from a nightma
michael adelman
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the Edge

I think of these stories as well written, edgy, sexy, sexually ambiguous and very touching. Definitely worth the journey.. Leaving and being unable to leaving are ongoing themes. Cruelty and I fidelity are also important themes. Many of the stories are seen through the eyes of someone who feels weaker, less together than another person. One of my favorites "Girl Canadian Shipwreck" has a chilling story within the story -- veryeffective. Silverman is fascinated with S-M and the story "
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed Jen Silverman's short story collection The Island Dwellers. Though many times, I feel that collections of short stories can have a tendency to feel unfinished, or experimental, Silverman's stories are rock solid. Additionally, her dialogue is superb, likely a consequence of her experience as a playwright. The characters and stories are compelling, and I enjoyed uncovering all of the loose threads that tie the pieces together.

All in all, I thought this was a great collection wit
Brett Benner
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars. Jen Silverman's super collection of linked stories repeatedly wades though streams of isolation, sexual fluidity, abuse, desire, loneliness and raw connectedness tying characters together with unapologetic abandon. Many stories take place with expats in Tokyo trying to find emotional strongholds with ever shifting terrain beneath there feet. Personal favorites were, 'White People' about a woman divorcing her husband, deeply embracing being newly 'woke' as she begins dating an exotic ...more
Marybeth Taranow
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my first book of short stories that I have read in a really long time. They are not usually my preferred genre, but I thought it was time I try them again.
I really enjoyed this collection. Most of these stories are about young adults trying to figure out life. They take place in mostly Tokyo and New York with a few in the Midwest. Same characters pop up in different stories not really tied in to the previous story, but in a story of their own or a major part. These read easily and I enj
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Jen Silverman’s short story collection, The Island Dwellers, follows her characters’ lives with pinpoint precision. Mainly set in New York and Tokyo, Silverman explores themes of loneliness, survival, and obsession. Her Tokyo stories stand out to me personally because they center around ex-pat life in Japan. I felt she did a good job of touching upon the privilege that comes with being an English-speaking (and also white) foreigner in the context of Japan specifically. Definitely give ...more
Bad Penny
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Disclosure/disclaimer: I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway.

These are the kind of short stories I really like. Brief snapshots, glances into a slice of flawed and troubled lives, with complex and uncommon characters. Unsettling and uncomfortable at times, but you keep coming back in a both voyeuristic and self-reflective way. I enjoyed the linkages between stories, and the dialogue was strong (not forced or stilted). I found it easy to escape into this book, but also connect to parts of myself; I
Melissa Dee
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jen Silverman's stories of foreigners in island cities and countries are haunting. She elegantly contrasts the earthiness of South African, Columbia, America against the cleanness and safety of Japan, and finds both the Japanese and foreigners as distant as they were in the time of Perry and the Shogun.

The Wolf was one of the strangest and funniest stories I’ve read — A dead body goes on a first date.

In the recycling of her characters from story to story, Silverman makes us feel we are part of t
Cherise Wolas
Intriguing interconnected short stories, with repeating characters, that take place in New York, Tokyo, Yokohama, and Iowa. The generational angst of young loners who are all disaffected in similar ways. They are urban, many are queer, all seeking connections, or communities, dealing with love, monogamy, abandonment, creating lives, though often those lives seem like weigh- stations to something else, though what that something else might be eludes them all. Interesting and strange situations. S ...more
Chelsea Martinez
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I usually finish any book I start, but I read this first story and didn't think it was anything special; I thought maybe I should try something new and just stop reading given that first taste. But all the other stories are better! Bouncing back between a few megacities with which the author is familiar (I think as a resident), these stories are about "misfits" in a way that's more expansive than the first story led me to expect. I liked the stories set in Japan best.
Suzanne M
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of short stories that seemed on the dark side, in my opinion. Perhaps that is what life is like for the flawed and troubled characters found within. Being young and trying to make one's way while far from home brings intricate situations. I found some of these stories to be uncomfortable at times, and perhaps that is exactly what was intended, but I soldiered on to find myself wondering about the fate of these characters after each story ended.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Grabbed this book off of the “new to our collection” shelf at the library. The stories, set on the islands of NY and Japan, are all loosely connected - the same fragile, pathetic, and/or damaged characters make repeat appearances (usually fleeting the second time around). Most of the stories illustrate relationships either gone awry or headed that way; the author gives the narrators voices that make them appear isolated despite living in two of the world’s largest metropolises.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
a tightly packed book of stories, completely elegant, luminescent, and loyal to a circulating sense of place. the quality of connection and devastation to each of the characters, whether in tokyo or new york, all of it so quickly but sharply examined, made me feel so in love with the reading experience. reading should always be so effortless and astute as this.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: netgalley
It takes a lot for me to not want to finish a book.

I don't know what had appealed to me about this in order to request it on Netgalley but I am not about it.

I gave up 28% of the way in. None of the stories I read grabbed my attention.
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Jen Silverman is a New York-based writer. Born in the U.S., she was raised across the U.S., Europe and Asia. Her theatre work includes The Moors (Yale Repertory Theatre premiere, off-Broadway with The Playwrights Realm, Susan Smith Blackburn finalist); The Roommate (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville Humana world premiere, multiple regional productions including South Coast Rep, SF Playhouse and Willia ...more