10 Jan 2012

More Thoughts on The Submission

No Comments Book Club Notes, Book Reviews, New and Exciting

The Tomba Cecilia Metela

As promised, here are some additional thoughts on Amy Waldman’s The Submission. Our book club discussion on this novel was among our liveliest, and we agreed that this is an outstanding work of contemporary fiction. We found the characters authentic and their conflicts generated much important thinking for the reader.

Our conversation centered primarily on Mo, Claire, Asma, and Sean, and if their behavior was consistent with what they believed to be their core values. In the case of Mo and Claire, the actions they take find them both alone and isolated twenty years after the contest. It is hard to know, however, if their lives would have wound up much differently had they not found themselves in the 9/11 maelstrom. Asma and Sean, on the other hand, took more dramatic action: Asma loses her life, Sean loses his family–but they both fulfill a need to be true to themselves.

This novel forces the thoughtful reader to confront her own biases and challenge herself to ask the hard questions. And as Tom Junod of Esquire magazine writes:

The Submission is not a religious novel but rather a secular one that takes religion very seriously. It is not a political novel but rather a novel about the ongoing redefinition of the place where politics starts. It is a novel of large public concern, and yet what it suggests is that over the last decade “the public” in America has just become an excuse for “the private” to hold sway — for people to submit to impulses they didn’t know they had. It is a portrait of a country almost terrifyingly free and at the same time endlessly involved in the task its title describes: either trying to get up off its knees or fall down to them.”

Indeed, The Submission does force these questions and unsettles the reader in an important and significant way, and that is precisely why this is a must read for smart women.

If you haven’t read the novel yet, the descriptions below give you a good sense of the cast as provided by the author on her site www.thesubmissionnovel.com

Mohammed Khan: The Architect

Every day brought more proof that the attackers were Muslims, seeking the martyr’s straight shot to paradise—and so Mo braced for suspicion as he returned to the theater under construction. A few days later he realized that the difference wasn’t in how he was being treated but in how he was behaving. Customarily brusque on work sites, he had become gingerly, polite, careful to give no cause for alarm or criticism. He didn’t like this new, more cautious avatar, whose efforts at accommodation hinted at some feeling of guilt, yet he couldn’t quite shake him.

Asma: The Immigrant

In the haze that followed, Asma gave statements about her missing husband’s work, his schedule, his habits, his history, to Bangladeshi consular officials, investigators hired by Inam’s employer, the police, the FBI, and the American Red Cross. She received all these visitors and promptly forgot them, attuned only to an inner world of fragile and unpredictable rhythms. She caressed her distended belly compulsively, measuring her own life from kick to kick. Never had she prayed so deeply, never had she felt the contrast between the tranquility within prayer and the disturbance outside so strongly. Her belly was far too big for her to bend, but she trusted God to sense her prostration.

Claire Burwell: The Widow

Aftermath had filled the two years since her husband’s death, the surge of grief yielding to the slow leak of mourning, the tedium of recovery, bathetic new routines that felt old from the get-go. Forms and more forms. Bulletins from the medical examiner: another fragment of her husband had been found. The cancellation of credit cards, driver’s license, club memberships, magazine subscriptions, contracts to buy works of art; the selling of cars and a sailboat; the scrubbing of his name from trusts and bank accounts and the boards of companies and nonprofits—all of it done with a ruthless efficiency that implicated her in his effacement.

Sean Gallagher: The Brother

The decade prior to the attack had been a herky-jerky improvisation, a man lurching wildly through the white space of adult life. Each bad choice fed off the last. He cut up in school, dropped out of junior college. Absent other options, he started a handyman business. He drank because he hated bending beneath the sinks of people he’d grown up with. And because he liked to drink.

Jose Grave de Peralta provides the beautiful illustrations featured on this site. For more information on the artist visit www.otoroazul.com 

written by
Lisa Forman Rosen is an avid reader and facilitator of book clubs in Miami, Florida. She has worked at the University of Miami since 1986, first in the Department of English Composition as a lecturer and now at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as a writer. Lisa created this site to share her love of literature with others and expand the conversation into the virtual world.
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