Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Submission

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 59.

The Submission by Amy Waldman

Summary (via the book jacket):
A jury gathers in Manhatten 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.  Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country's.
The memorial's designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan.  His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell.  But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself - as unknowable as he is gifted.  In the fights for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent questions of how to remember, and understand, a nation tragedy.
In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters in matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives.  A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and reasonant novel by an important new talent.

My Opinion:
Here's the deal: it's going to sound like I didn't like this book, but I did.
It was uncomfortable to read because it was so unfortunately realistic (I wish it wasn't so easy to picture the bigotry and discrimination occurring in real life but I know it does), but it wasn't difficult to read because the author wrote such accessible, flawed human characters.  
Although it is almost exclusively about emotions (everyone agrees on the facts yet their reactions are so different), it wasn't an overly emotional book.  It gave me room to think; by not feeling emotionally manipulated or steered toward one side over the other, I was able to read it like an observational study on human behavior.  I would say I almost felt detached but that sounds negative; I found it very interesting and read quickly to find out what the resolution would be.
I give a lot of credit to the author for remaining true to the characters throughout the entire book.  The ending didn't feel forced - there was no unrealistic "kumbaya" moment where everyone discovered we're not so different after all but it wasn't all bleak either.  Just like life.
Quote from the Book:
"But sometimes America has to be pushed - it has to be reminded of what it is."

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