“Buffeted by the media storm, Claire and Mo find themselves manipulated by reporters, right-wing zealots, the liberal left and a governor with hopes of higher office. Claire faces jealousy from a fire-fighters brother who lusts for the spotlight and believes he should have been on the jury. The unabashedly secular Mo finds no more of an acceptance from observing Muslims than the Jewish head of the selection committee. The fight over the memorial leaves both haunted, aware even if unwilling to acknowledge that they have lost their best selves.” (The Daily Mail, 2011, p.48)
The other interesting character in the novel is that of Alyssa Spier, a cub reporter, “who fancies herself as a harder-nosed Carrie Bradshaw, scents blood and, if she can dig enough dirt on Khan, the chance to make her name.” (The Daily Mail, 2011, p.48) Amid this intriguing plot structure, Waldman is able to pull off a wonderful debut novel, which is searching and cerebral, yet with moves forward at a fast pace. The lack of subplots in the story (a reflection of the author’s journalistic background) works to its advantage. In sum, Waldman brings forth “biting sketches of cynical hacks and scripted shock-jocks ring true, as she scrutinizes the link between art works and their creators. Acute and exhilarating.” (The Daily Mail, 2011, p.48)
Much of the power in Amy Waldman’s work comes from her capacity to gradually reveal layer upon layer of her characters’ circumstances, creating a continual sense of enlightenment as the story progresses. Her introduction of a Bangladeshi widow made suddenly affluent by the compensation fund exemplifies one of the contradictions created by the tragedy: that many people benefited financially as a result of the event, but the money thus gained could never truly compensate for what was lost. The widow’s newfound wealth allows her to stay in the U.S. without working but makes her constantly fearful of deportation or the kidnapping of relatives in her beleaguered homeland. (Daily Herald, 2011, p.37)
The Submission is difficult to classify into conventional genre and milieu. For example, it is not a work belonging to the tried and tested genres of Western/Country, Existential, Historical, Romance, Crime/Thriller, etc. The themes evident in earlier generations of the novel, such as the economic travails of the Great Depression or the high-tension of the Cold War era or the cultural upheavals of the Hippie generation are all far removed from the concerns evident in The Submission. Perhaps, then, it is a definitive novel of the post 911 era. To this extent, it is a pioneering work, with the capacity to create its own socio-cultural milieu. Critics also acknowledge the boldness with which Waldman tackles controversial issues, especially her harsh take on 911 widows and fire-fighters’ families. But, it is a novel which could not have come at a more appropriate time.
“A decade after the attacks, it is possible now to look with perspective on who we were, who we became and who we want to be. Waldman’s novel ends with regrets two decades after the attacks. It is almost as if she is sounding a warning, telling us that we have another decade to do better, to make things right and to try to heal some of the wounds still lingering from that horrible day and those that followed.” (Daily Herald, 2011, p.37)
Barrow, Daniel. “Novels for 9/11.” New Statesman (1996) 5 Sept. 2011: 59.
“Fictional ‘Submission’ Looks at How 9/11 Left U.S. Fragmented.” Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) 19 Aug. 2011: 37.
“Literary Fiction.” The Daily Mail (London, England) 19 Aug. 2011: 48.
Waldman, Amy. “Prophetic Justice: The United States Now Prosecutes Suspected Terrorists for Their Intentions, Not Just Their Action. When It Comes to Islam, Are American Jurors Equipped to Understand If Words and Beliefs Are Truly Dangerous?.” The Atlantic Monthly Oct. 2006: 82+.
“Zero Tolerance; Book of thE WEEk.” The Mirror (London, England) 9 Sept. 2011: 11.