Amy Waldman's debut novel asks us to take a long look at ourselves and be disappointed. Or to look at the aftermath of 9/11 and ask, "Could we have handled that any worse?"
The novel opens with a vote to select a design for the 9/11 memorial. The contestants' names had been detached from their submissions, and now the winner's name is revealed: Mohammad Khan. "There were a few gasps," Waldman writes, "and 'hmmms,' an 'interesting,' an 'oh my.' Then: 'Jesus fucking Christ! It's a goddamn Muslim!'" as Khan's submission form is passed around the table.