by Amy Waldman
THE SUBMISSION by Amy Walden
The premise of this debut novel is brilliant: a Muslim architect wins the competition to design a memorial that will fill the gaping hole that was left when the World Trade Centre was destroyed. The fall-out, both public and private, exposes a complex web of attitudes and beliefs and the resulting events question the competing claims of the victims' families, the nature of memorial, the value of art and the teachings of Islam.
The novel opens with the thirteen-strong jury deciding, after four months' deliberation, on the winning design of the competition. Entries are anonymous, and after they choose a memorial in the shape of a formal garden, they open the envelope to find the winner is called Mohammed Khan.
The announcement hits the US like an aftershock and is appropriated by journalists, politicians and activists all to their own ends. But the ensuing controversy is brought into focus through the eyes of three main characters. Claire, one of the judges, whose beloved husband was killed in the attack, finds herself at odds with the bereaved families who she is supposed to represent. And her role in the public eye exposes the uneasy relationship between her liberal values and her life of wealth and privilege. On the other end of the social scale is Asma Anwar, a twenty-one year old illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, whose equally beloved husband, a janitor in the WTC, was also killed. The third main character is the conflicted and enigmatic architect, Mohammed Khan, himself.
This is Amy Walden's first novel but she has worked for many years as a journalist and she brings her knowledge of the media industry as well as a trained eye for the telling detail to this story. Published ten years after 9/11, THE SUBMISSION is one of the most interesting, subtle and nuanced fictional responses to this catastrophic event.
Published by Windmill Books, 416pp.