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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.

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    The "submission" of the title is a garden to be built on the site of the twin towers as a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 disaster. There were other submissions (the Void, for instance) but the only one that matters in Amy Waldman's novel is the garden. That is because it was designed by an architect with the unfortunate name of Mohammed Khan. That a Muslim man should be chosen to create such a memorial breeds much controversy. The novel is structured around the repercussions of selecting Khan's garden design for this purpose. Waldman introduces a large cast of characters in order to demonstrate the complexity of this problem. We see many points of view, from Paul Rubin, the chair of the selection committee, to Sean Gallagher, the brother of a firefighter victim, to Asma, a Bangladeshi illegal immigrant who lost her caretaker husband in the collapse of the buildings. There are many others too, but the two most important characters in the novel are Claire Burwell, a beautiful widow who was on the selection committee as a representative of the victims' families, and the architect, Mo Khan, himself. There is a ripple effect here - one reaction leads to another, then to another and so on. The reader sits on the sidelines and observes, as the story bounces from one resulting event to another. I liked this structure although at times, I thought the novel rather slow as a result. Ultimately, The Submission is a novel that is well worth reading, There is lots to discuss here.


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