[N]ervy and absorbing…Writing in limber, detailed prose, Ms. Waldman has created a choral novel with a big historical backdrop and pointillist emotional detail, a novel that gives the reader a visceral understanding of how New York City and the country at large reacted to 9/11, and how that terrible day affected some Americans' attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
With the keen and expert eye of an excellent journalist, Waldman provides telling portraits of all the drama's major players, deftly exposing their foibles and their mutual manipulations. And she has a sense of humor: the novel is punctuated with darkly comic details…Elegantly written and tightly plotted, The Submission ultimately remains a novel about the unfolding of a dramatic situation—a historian's novel…lucid, illuminating and entertaining.
Claire Messud - New York Times Book Review
[A] coherent, timely and fascinating examination of a grieving America's relationship with itself. Waldman…excels at involving the reader in vibrant dialogues in which the level of the debate is high and the consequences significant.
Ron Charles - Washington Post
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.
Ten years after 9/11, writing about the attacks without seeming to exploit them can still be a challenge. Debut novelist Waldman takes an effective approach by imagining a search for a fitting memorial that ends up revealing the divisions underlying American society. A member of the jury choosing the memorial, Claire—who lost her husband on 9/11 and now finds herself cast as a "star widow"—champions a garden whose walls contain the names of the dead. The design wins, the anonymous submission is opened, and the architect is revealed to be Muslim American—born here, hardly a practitioner of his faith, and not ready to fall into the role of the enemy. At first glance, Waldman's tale unfolds in fluid, accessible language, and the issues raised here will deeply engage readers.
The selection of a Muslim architect for a 9/11 memorial stirs a media circus in Waldman's poised and commanding debut novel.... Waldman's book reflects a much-needed understanding of American paranoia in the post-9/11 world.
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