I read The Submission by Amy Waldman last week and it was great. It was great in that well written, extraordinary characters, well developed story, a bit of a mental mystery, and a use of the 9/11 tragedy without just ripping the reader's heart out.
The story begins with a jury of people- mostly artists, a political appointee, and a surviving family member of 9/11- working together to select from an anonymous selection of submissions for a design for a 9/11 memorial. After the jury chooses a design called The Garden, the artist is revealed only to be a Muslim American.
The story then unfolds as individuals on the jury struggle with what it means to them to have picked a Muslim to design a memorial to the biggest tragedy in America, and the argument of what Islam means. Then the story unfolds in America, and the outrage of the people in the country, in NYC, the families of victims... what does this mean?
I was literally spellbound as this story came alive on the page. The characters: Claire, wife of a victim; Mohammad, the winner; Paul the tired political appointee; the Governor with higher political ambitions; the desperate female reporter; and the Bangladeshi immigrant woman whose husband worked in the Towers but was an illegal and therefore never "honored".
Events of 9/11 were replayed from the perspective of these characters but without seeming fanatical or without using it as a ploy tugging on my emotional heart strings. It was real, it was hard, it was intense.
And the conclusion drawn by the characters, the author, the country....left me questioning and wondering.