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31 Hours by Masha Hamilton
Unbridled Books (October 2009)
A woman in New York awakens knowing, as deeply as a mother’s blood can know, that her grown son is in danger. She has not heard from him in weeks. His name is Jonas. His girlfriend, Vic, doesn’t know what she has done wrong, but Jonas won’t answer his cell phone. We soon learn that Jonas is isolated in a safe-house apartment in New York City, pondering his conversion to Islam and his experiences training in Pakistan, preparing for the violent action he has been instructed to take in 31 hours. Jonas’s absence from the lives of those who love him causes a cascade of events, and as the novel moves through the streets and subways of New York we come to know intimately the lives of its characters. We also learn to feel deeply the connections and disconnections that occur between young people and their parents not only in this country but in the Middle East as well.
**This review contains spoilers**
It is hard for me to start the review with the beginning of this novel, because I am still so consumed by the ending. I did not want it to end the way that it did. I turned page after page and found myself getting closer to the end of the book, and knew that the decision that Jonas made would change the lives of every character that I had become invested in.
I loved the way that Hamilton wove together the characters in the novel: Jonas, his mother and father, his girlfriend Vic, Vic's little sister Mara, and Sonny a homeless man who considered the subway his home. Each character was beautifully described and I felt as if I understood their hopes, their perspectives, and I thought that I had guessed how their stories would end. I especially connected with Mara, who seemed young and innocent and was trying desperately to reconnect her family.
With each brief chapter, as the 31 Hours counted down, I waited for all of the distinct characters to be brought together. That the book ended as a cliffhanger shocked me, then angered me, but I have come to an understanding that it could not have ended any other way. Hamilton's writing is breathtaking and 31 Hours most certainly took my breath away.
I highly recommend this book and I'm looking forward to enjoying additional books by Masha Hamilton.