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. 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, and one of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011.
...the best 9/11 novel to date ... From this coup de théâtre Waldman skilfully spins out an ever-widening cast ... As the consequences of the memorial decision accelerate towards tragedy the participants have to square the cost of multicultural compromises against the ideal of the US’s self-appointed role as the city upon a hill. It is a struggle Waldman depicts with both intelligence and wit, in accomplished prose. This is a deeply thoughtful and moving account of the myriad ways in which, when the towers came down, the US psyche became a casualty too.
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 ... If this lively and thoroughly imagined narrative has a weakness, it lies in Waldman’s decision to remain at a certain remove from [the] two central characters; in a sense, not to privilege them more. As the story unfolds, their fateful decisions are eminently plausible, but not always fully comprehensible ... Elegantly written and tightly plotted, The Submission ultimately remains a novel about the unfolding of a dramatic situation — a historian’s novel — rather than a novel that explores the human condition with any profundity. And yet in these unnerving times, in which Waldman has seen facts take the shape of her fiction, a historian’s novel at once lucid, illuminating and entertaining is a necessary and valuable gift.
The grief surrounding 9/11 – the forms it takes, the claims it makes, the claims made in its name by third parties, the hierarchy which surrounds it ...the guilt and anger which are born from it, the gulf between the silence of private grief and the clamour of public grief – is central to this exceptional debut about a changing America ... Waldman's prose is almost always pitch-perfect, whether describing a Bangladeshi woman's relationship with her landlady or the political manoeuvring within a jury. The characters are wholly realised and believable as individuals, but they also stand in for stories and conflicts that go beyond their own lives ... The Submission would have been a remarkable response to last year's Cordoba House/Park 51 debacle in America, with its Qur'an burnings, its editorials about the difference between what is legal and what is acceptable, its reminder that not all post-9/11 conflicts were taking place outside America.