Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"31 Hours"

"31 Hours" by Masha Hamilton
Published August 2010 by Unbridled Books
Source: the publisher

At 1:44 a.m. Carol Meitzner wakes up certain that her son, Jonas, is in trouble.  She and Jonas have always been close but now she hasn't talked to him in days.  His girlfriend, Vic, feels that she's losing Jonas because she, too, hasn't heard from him in days.  Neither Carol nor Vic can get Jonas to answer his phone and he's not at his apartment.
"This is the way mother-love works, she'd explain to him.  There's no controlling it, and there's nothing like it, not the way a cleric loves his God or a soldier his country or a man his wife. This baby emerges, and that's it - you're sucked into a maelstrom so profound you never get out and so you worry, you overreact sometimes, all you want is to protect your baby."
They have every right to be afraid.  Even as Carol begins to worry, Jonas is holed up in a safe house, readying himself for a suicide attack on the New York subway system.  He's been trained by Islamic fundamentalists, although he does not entirely buy into their dogma.  But Jonas is so distraught by the state of affairs that he sees no other way to make people wake up and see what is happening.  And, at this point, Jonas feels that he'll be killed regardless of whether or not he goes ahead with the plan.

"He felt suddenly extremely fatigued.  If he changed his mind now, they would probably kill him.  It sounded melodramatic, but he believed it.  It would be a pointless death then.  They might kill his parents, too."

Over the next thirty-one hours, as Jonas cleanses and mentally prepares himself for what he is planning on doing, his mother frantically tries to track him down.  His father, at first believing that Carol is overreacting, soon comes to believe her.  But will they be able to find Jonas in time to prevent him from carrying out his mission?

Hamilton looks at the story from a lot of different points of view: Sonny, the homeless panhandler who has an uncanny ability to read situations and has a feeling that something terrible is about to happen.; Mara, Vic's sister who has traveled by subway and is on her way home in an attempt to patch up her parent's marriage; Vic, who is marveling that her long friendship with Jonas has lead to a much more intimate relationship and Carol, who recalls the sensitive young Jonas who has the "ability to see the wizard behind the curtain."

For a mother of young men, I was pulled into this book immediately.  I could completely relate to the idea of a mother feeling so strongly that something was wrong and Hamilton, for the most part, does a good job of building the tension since she lets the reader in on what Jonas is planning early on.  But in trying to introduce the reader to all of the characters that will play into later events, Hamilton is forced to let up on the reader.  In fact, I found that the chapters involving Sonny really pulled me out of the story.

But the whole story was so believable, the characters so well-written that I could not put the book down.  It was so easy for me to put myself into Carol's position, so easy for me to imagine how a idealistic young person could be led astray.  I loved the ending of this book but it will not be one that everyone will like.

Once again, Unbridled Books has given me a book that is unique and thought-provoking.  Book clubs would have a lot to discuss with this book.


  1. Absolutely believable! I now dont think that anything is impossible.

  2. Oh, I have been wanting to read this book! I have been on the look out for it here! Sounds as good as I thought it would be! Great review!

  3. Wasn't this INTENSE!? I actually liked the Sonny parts.

  4. Hi Lisa....this one sounds like a good thriller of sorts. I but it on my my wishlist some time ago and then forgot about it until I read this post.

    Have a great day

  5. I have this book on my stack and am really looking forward to it. It does sound like a frightening story, but also one that grips you and doesn't let you go. Wonderful review! I will have to let you know what I think of it!

  6. I receieved a catalog from Unbridled Books, or I printed one off (can't remember) but I saw this book featured. It looked really good then but after reading your review now I feel as if I must read it.

  7. Sounds like a book that gets you into the action immediately. (Exactly the opposite of the girl with the tattoo...)

  8. I've heard so much about this one and can't wait to read it!

  9. I love the idea of a very intense book and being the mother of two sons this has grabbed me!

  10. This one was intense and I did find myself liking Sonny's character.

    At first, I hated the ending, but then found myself understanding it. Glad that you enjoyed the book.

  11. I enjoyed this one quite a bit too. It was interesting getting the different perspectives, but Sonny's did seem a bit out of place. I did like his character and story though over all.

  12. This has been on my wish list for some time. Glad you liked it :)