A Door in the Earth

Little, Brown. Aug. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9780316451574. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316451581. F
Waldman’s 2011 literary debut, The Submission, meditated on the complexity of grief and identity as the story focused on an American Muslim architect winning a contest to design the Ground Zero Memorial. Who ultimately has a right to tell that narrative of remembrance? Here, Waldman tackles a similar theme through Plato’s concept of the Noble Lie. Inspired by Mother Afghanistan, a memoir by Gideon Crane, Parveen Shamsa embarks on a journey to locate the medical clinic he founded and learn about its impact on the country. She views her trip as fieldwork in preparation for her career as an anthropologist. However, as Parveen gains acceptance into the community, she also begins to realize that Gideon’s descriptions of the people and region don’t match reality. His story is a lie. By the time American soldiers arrive in the village, Parveen is left wondering whether Gideon’s fictional memoir was produced for altruistic or monetary reasons.
VERDICT Much like Brian Van Reet’s Spoils, Waldman’s new work offers a deeply complicated and thought-provoking story about the purposeful obfuscation of truth in service to Western idealism. [See Prepub Alert, 2/11/19.]

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