Lisa Eckstein's Reviews > The Submission

The Submission by Amy Waldman
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Jul 03, 12

bookshelves: read-2011, favorites
Read from September 02 to 22, 2011 — I own a copy

I was really impressed by this novel, which has a fascinating premise and fantastic execution. At the beginning of the book, a committee selects the winning design for a September 11th memorial. The submission process for the contest was anonymous, and the jurors are surprised when they discover that their chosen designer is an architect named Mohammad Khan, an American-born Muslim. When this unexpected result is leaked to the press, it sparks emotional reactions from many sides. The story's events quickly spiral out of control, but the writing remains tight and focused throughout.

What struck me most about this book is how carefully and swiftly the story unfolds. The term "tightly plotted" is used a lot in reviews, and this novel made clear to me what it means. On just about every page, a new complication appears. Each new obstacle is a natural, believable development, but rarely could I predict what would happen next. Perhaps most importantly, everything that happens in the novel is connected and no scenes feel extraneous. Not bad for a story that follows half a dozen different characters.

The characters themselves are well-developed, complex personalities. Waldman didn't choose any easy portrayals. The Muslim architect who designed the winning memorial is as patriotic as any grieving New Yorker, but he's also arrogant and self-centered. One of the prominent opposers of the design, the brother of a dead firefighter, gets branded a bigot but is really far more conflicted and confused by his own actions in front of the media.

I hope to someday produce a novel as intricate and well-executed as THE SUBMISSION, and I'll be turning to this book again as an example of how it's done.
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