by Amy Waldman
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011
source: library copy
In a nutshell:
The premise of the novel is quite simple - a blind competition to design a memorial to 9/11 victims is won by a Muslim and a storm of controversy ensues.
This novel took me completely by surprise. I sat down to preview the first few pages and ended up reading fifty. I never expected to become involved so quickly, but set it aside the following day after realizing I could not attend the book club meeting. My travels plans changed at the last minute (courtesy of Superstorm Sandy) and I read the book in two days, finishing just moments before the meeting.
The Submission proved thought-provoking in a ways I never imagined. There are so many approaches to the 'problem' of the memorial's designer and Waldman does an excellent job of presenting every angle. The ending was especially well done, and I loved the device of having the final chapter set at a distance of twenty years.
Book club reaction:
There were only six of us present, but everyone read the book - an unusual occurrence! We all liked the novel to varying degrees and one of us really loved it. The discussion was thorough, far-reaching, and we stayed on topic much longer than usual. A couple members mentioned referring to the dictionary a time or two. We all agreed this was a book we would not have chosen on our own and were grateful to receive the recommendation from another group.
We shared a laugh over this quote:
"It had taken her a long time to get to New York City, which was where she had always imagined herself. During her exile in the wilderness of nowhere America - Brattleboro, Duluth, Syracuse, backwaters too much like her birthplace - she had the strange, horrible sense that things were not going as planned, even though she told everyone they were exactly what she had planned." p.60Nowhere America? Hey, we all love Syracuse... and think Brattleboro and Duluth are probably nice places, too!
A very thought-provoking novel, and an excellent choice for book clubs.