Entertainment Weekly's Favorite Novel of 2011
Esquire's 2011 Book of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011
One of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011
Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath
A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner's name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country's.
The memorial's designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself—as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.
In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives. A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and resonant novel by an important new talent.
Waldman imagines a toxic brew of bigotry in conflict with idealism in this frighteningly plausible and tightly wound account of what might happen if a Muslim architect had won a contest to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site. Jury member and 9/11 widow Claire Burwell presses for the winning garden design both before and after its creator is revealed as Mohammed "Mo" Khan, an American-born and raised architect who becomes embroiled in the growing furor between those who see the garden as a symbol of tolerance and peace, and various activists who claim patriotism as they spew anti-Islamic diatribes. Waldman keenly focuses on political and social variables, including an opportunistic governor who abets the outbreak of xenophobia; the wealthy chairman of the contest, maneuvering for social cachet; a group of zealots whose obsession with radical Islam foments violence; a beautiful Iranian-American lawyer who becomes Mo's lover until he refuses to become a mouthpiece; and a trouble-sowing tabloid reporter. Meanwhile, Mo refuses to demean himself by explaining the source of his design, seen by some as an Islamic martyr's paradise. As misguided outrage flows from all corners, Waldman addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole. True, there are more blowhards than heroes, but that just makes it all the more real.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great characters and absorbing plot twists.
Excellent Writing, Emotionally Gripping
The characters are so real that they walk right off the page. The situation could have been ripped from the front page.
The beginning seems like it will be just political correctness throughout, but don't be fooled. The tale has dimensions and realism that begs for analysis.
Capturing the Aftermath of National Tragedy
The Submission is a brilliantly conceived novel that examines how political, social, and personal forces can tear a society apart in the wake of tragedy. Walden's understanding of human nature, ambition, pride and sadness propel the reader through an emotional visceral juggernaut. I have rarely been so emotionally effected by a novel. Walden captures perfectly how tragedy is manipulated, how fear is used to destroy rather than build and how personal ambitions can be obstacles to the greater good of society.