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A.C. Baantjer
The Submission - Amy Waldman First sentence: "'The names,', Claire said, 'what about the names?'"

P. 99: "There was something about the woman - a moral astringency - that begged both confession and challenge."

Last sentence: "With a pile of stones, he had written a name."

From BookDepository: A jury gathers in Manhattan 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 fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy. In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters is 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 resonant novel by an important new talent.

This was the first choice for #TwitLit, the Twitter Reading Club of the Dutch newspaper NRC. And because I started hearing some good things about it, I ordered it immediately at BookDepository and started reading it the minute it arrived in my mailbox. The story itself also appealed to me; what would happen when the design of the memorial for the victims of the attacks of 9/11 in New York was the work of a Muslim? Waldman sets down a believable chain of events, that is so convincing at times I could have believed it really happened. I loved the way she described the feelings and actions of different characters that were involved; Mo (or Mohammad) the architect, Claire, the widow of one of the victims of the attack (a rich and beautiful woman), Asma, also the widow of one of the victims, but in totally different circumstances (Asma and her husband are illegal Bangladeshi's immigrants), Paul, the head of the jury that has to decide which design will be chosen for the memorial), and so on.

Although the characters are only briefly sketched, it is as if you know them; it is very easy to understand why they think and act as they do, and their reactions are only too human.

I think this debut novel will appeal to many people, both those that love a great story and those that want stories with real-life characters.

Other thoughts/reviews:

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/03/paperback-qanda-amy-waldman-the-submission