It is rare that a mainstream novel is about architecture. But it is also rare that a popular non-fiction is about architecture, and the fight to build at Ground Zero inspired two books of the latter kind, Philip Nobel’s Sixteen Acres and Paul Goldberger’s Up From Zero. What made the non-fiction compelling was the cast of characters, the selfless and the self-interested, the high stakes and the deep emotion surrounding what to do with the “hallowed ground.”
All these qualities also make for a good novel, so I had high hopes for The Submission by former New York Times reporter Amy Waldman. From the jacket copy: “Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath.” The Submission is an alternate history of the selection of a design for the 9/11 memorial based on the uncomfortable question, What if Michael Arad had been Muslim?