“The Submission”

October 22, 2011 at 8:26 PM | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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Even after the strong review in the New York Times for The Submission by Susan Waldman, I hesitated. Twice I had it in my hand and walked out of the library without it. I had two problems: 9/11 is central to the story and I’ve had it with 9/11 since 10/11 and the plot seemed too “done.” A jury is picking a design, a submission, for a memorial for Ground Zero and the chosen design turns out to be by an American named Mohammad Kahn. It felt like Maya Lin moved up a generation or so.

I loved the novel and I know why. All the prime movers of the drama are equivocal and so, for me, very human and in the end, very moving. You want to shake “Mo” the young just barely Muslim architect who can’t throw even the smallest bone to the aggrieved relatives who are supersensitive to anything Muslim. Claire, tall, beautiful, rich, widowed by the falling towers, seemingly the one person with vision, changes her mind and turns on the Garden, the proposed memorial, now viewed as Islamic once the designer became known, and that is decisive.

In a gamble but one that works, the book ends twenty years later and we meet Mo and Claire once again — and nothing is resolved and they are not at peace. I found that very satisfying.

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