Book: The Submission Review

“When you find the kernel of buried religion…”

Author: Amy Waldman

Genre: Drama, Human Interest, Age: Adult

Released: 5th July 2012 (UK version)

When the jury for Manhattan’s 9/11 memorial picks The Garden as their choice, everyone is shocked to discover that the architect is a Muslim.

In a time when tensions are high after the terrorist attack, Islamic ties can be massive hindrance, as Mohammed Khan finds out. Over the course of the book, it explores the people and decisions they represent, and above all, the cursory responses to his faith.

Warning! Contains spoilers!

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Despite the documented pieces given in this book, the real architect of the 9/11 is actually Jewish. Written for sensationalism, and as a hypothetical situation, a Muslim architect comes forward. Hey, presto! You have your conflicting situation for a novel.

If you had a particular opinion to the attack, you will find yourself represented here. Waldman, showing tolerance towards Islam, has two of her characters defending the memorial.

Claire Burwell, a smart and wealthy woman, grieving after her husband, sees his life immortalised in The Garden.

Mohammed Khan, the architect who designed the memorial, wants to help design the memorial for career reasons and well as sympathetic. Interestingly, despite having an Arabic name, he his a non-practicing Muslim. When his “religion” is leaked to the public, he finds his faith a hindrance because it builds up a stereotype as a terrorist.

If you have a different outlook than pro-Islam, you will find people that represent the other side shocking ignorant.

Sean Gallagher, a failed working man, defines his entire life after the attacks that killed his perfect-seeming brother. Being generally anti-Muslim, he comes across as angry, violent and dangerous. Throughout the book, his attacks and violent attitudes towards women are well publicised.

There are also other characters, that are simple for being hostile with very twisted information.

Waldman’s characters can be split down the middle as either zealots or “modern Muslims”. In case point, Laila, Mohammed’s lawyer girlfriend, is westernised, hence she is “okay”.

The only likable character is Asma Anwar. Given very little screen time, we find out her humble story of being an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, her husband was killed in the attacks, and her need for The Garden makes him seem more real.

Asma was sainted after one crowning monument, Waldman kills her off, with no conclusion to her story, or the killer being found. A plaque shown at the epilogue, does not make an ending.

The story overlooks a widely diverse culture. Though giving an accurate description of Islamic countries, it completely fails to acknowledge that these are the poorest parts. It’s frustrating to have the message thrown at you that a billion people that follow Islam, that have a diversely different culture to the west, are “too different”, “too foreign”, and “poor”.

Overall, the story appears to be pro-peace and equality, judging by the ending where “all is well with Muslims and others” twenty years down the line. It comes with a sense of naivety, since Mohammed didn’t get the memorial built, and Waldman’s character’s either disappear or remain in grief forever.

It’s good thing the simple writing style invites readers, because the character’s opinions and conclusion given are certainly not the best.

Rated 3/5 – Heated debates about a controversial topic. Characters inconsistently change their minds halfway through the book. Conclusion lacks strength.

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