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 ...
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. The memorial's designer is Mohammad Khan, an enigmatic, ambitious architect. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, Claire finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself. 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.
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Publishers Weekly, 2011-05-23 Waldman imagines a toxic brew of bigotry in conflict with idealism in this frighteningly plausible and tightly wound account of what might happen if a Muslim architect had won a contest to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site. Jury member and 9/11 widow Claire Burwell presses for the winning garden design both before and after its creator is revealed as Mohammed "Mo" Khan, an American-born and raised architect who becomes embroiled in the growing furor between those who see the garden as a symbol of tolerance and peace, and various activists who claim patriotism as they spew anti-Islamic diatribes. Waldman keenly focuses on political and social variables, including an opportunistic governor who abets the outbreak of xenophobia; the wealthy chairman of the contest, maneuvering for social cachet; a group of zealots whose obsession with radical Islam foments violence; a beautiful Iranian-American lawyer who becomes Mo's lover until he refuses to become a mouthpiece; and a trouble-sowing tabloid reporter. Meanwhile, Mo refuses to demean himself by explaining the source of his design, seen by some as an Islamic martyr's paradise. As misguided outrage flows from all corners, Waldman addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole. True, there are more blowhards than heroes, but that just makes it all the more real. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly, 2011-10-31 Bernadette Dunne narrates this audio version of Waldman's insinuating tale of post-9/11 paranoia, reflexive patriotism, grief, and the collision of liberal pieties with anti-Muslim bigotry. The novel is a symphony of competing perspectives, its characters squabbling furiously over Muslim architect Mo-hammed Khan's proposed plans for the 9/11 memorial in New York City. Dunne must scramble to keep up with the parade of angry, profane, mournful, and frustrated voices. And while she's not a particularly energetic reader-occasionally emphasizing words at random-Dunne skillfully maneuvers her way through the novel, mostly eschewing the temptation to provide distinct voices for each character and instead maintaining a fairly uniform tone of breathy, occasionally husky combativeness. Dunne stands back as the characters steadily inflict wounds on each other and themselves while attempting to assert moral superiority. Perhaps learning the book's lesson, Dunne asserts no superiority, letting Waldman's book stand or fall distinctly on its merits. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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