Monday, September 21, 2009

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton
Copyright 2009
Unbridled Books - Fiction/Suspense/Terrorism
229 pages
Masha Hamilton's website

I found 31 Hours gripping enough that I didn't stop to mark any quotes, so here's the quote from the book cover:

It occurred to her that she needed to pray. Yet she had no idea how to do it . . . If she wanted to pray, she realized, she would have to make it up.

This was obviously Unbridled Books Weekend at the House of Bookfool. 2 in a row. 31 Hours is a real grabber. Jonas has not contacted his mother for 9 days and his best friend (possibly girlfriend) has been too busy with dance rehearsals to call him. Jonas' mother has a bad feeling and begins calling around to try to locate him. Nobody knows what's become of Jonas.

Meanwhile, Jonas is staying in a safe house, preparing for an act of unspeakable violence. Isolated from friends and family, unable to make outside calls or leave without being followed, he prays, cleanses himself and reflects on how he arrived at his decision. Will his loved ones be able to find him in time to prevent tragedy?

31 Hours grabbed me from the first page and held on tight. Jonas is a confused young man who has been searching for meaning. He has found it in the Muslim faith, but his friend and mentor is a terrorist who plans to use Jonas and others to avenge his brother's death. Interspersed between the scenes where Jonas reflects, prays and readies himself to die as a martyr we meet his mother, his maybe-girlfriend and long-time best friend, Vic, her sister Mara and a homeless man who makes his living begging in the New York subway system. Each character is beautifully rendered, realistically human with flaws and hopes and personal tragedies. One can't help but feel touched and horrified at the thought of how a terrorist act effects a broad range of people -- including a terrorist's family members -- and caught up in the hope that somehow Jonas will be stopped.

I can't tell you how the book ends because it's a spoiler. In fact, I didn't like the ending and then I thought about it and decided it was right, then I reconsidered, then I thought it had to be that way, then I waffled some more. This seems to be my month for not appreciating how authors choose to end their books. In general, I thought the author could have taken us just a bit farther. It's pretty clear what's going to happen and yet . . . maybe not. There are several possibilities, none of them likely. I just would have liked a little more rounding out; the conclusion was too abrupt for my taste. My only other concern was that it seemed like a few too many people had premonitions of what was to come, although I think there are honestly plenty of people in touch with that 6th sense.

4/5 - A very good book about the various lives touched by terrorism, well-written (although not perfect, in my humble opinion) and gripping. Excellent characterization, realistic situation but an ending I considered too abrupt. In spite of the ending, I highly recommend 31 Hours.

In other news:

My do-list is kind of scary. How is yours? I planned to chatter a bit, at the end of this post, but I'm feeling a wee bit zombified so I'll save that for another day. Tomorrow, kiddo is getting an injection of cortisone in his bad shoulder. Yeeeeow! We're praying it helps. He's been in pain for about 2 years, now. I'll be on ice-bag refilling duty.

Happy, Happy Monday!

Bookfool in air conditioning with bare feet (and truly envious of Colorado residents, at the moment)


  1. Great review. This sounds like a really interesting book with some really great facets like the characterization, which sounds like it's spot on. I really want to read it and then maybe we can talk about the ending. Sometimes abrupt endings just leave more for conversation, which can be a blessing and a curse.

    My too do list is insanely long. I need to start doing some of the things on it and quit talking/complaining about them.

  2. The book sounds great...I am sure I would like it too!
    I am sorry about your son... hopes this injection helps :)

  3. Wow, 31 Hours sounds gripping, yet terrifying! I'm looking forward to reading it now.

  4. Now you've made me really curious about the end! This sounds really good.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  5. justicejennifer,

    I don't know what to call you! That's a long name! I just peeked at your blog and I see you're quite new to book blogging. Welcome to the bloggy world!

    You said exactly what I was trying to express but couldn't quite get out. An abrupt ending can be both a blessing and a curse. Do come back to talk about it with me, when you read it. I have a feeling that ending will stick with me for a good, long time.

    Same here on the do list. There's no end to all that needs to be done, but I rewrite my do-list daily and then hack away at it, little by little. :)


    I think you'd like 31 Hours. My son's injury has been a nuisance. Thanks. He's doing fine, so far -- icing down the shoulder. It wasn't as painful as he expected, so he's happy. Plus, my doctor (who is a heck of a lot better than the doctor we went to in the first place) showed him some helpful exercises and stretches. We walked out the door of the clinic and my son said, "You were right. He's a good doctor."


    It's both gripping and terrifying. The whole time you're reading the book, you can't help but think about the ordinary people who could easily end up where Jonas is planning to do his part in the terrorist attack. It means more because you feel like you know them so well.


    It's very good. I guess you'll just have to read it and then tell me what you think of the ending!

  6. Ooh, I love when a book grabs me like this! My last read, Blessings, was such a quick read that I hardly had time to collect my thoughts.

    Re: to do lists. Boo. Mine seems to double everyday! Hope yours calms down soon and hope the injection helps out that shoulder.

  7. Rosemary,

    Isn't that the greatest? The best books usually grab you right off the bat and hang on (although, of course, there are exceptions).

    My do-list is so insane. I love making little check-marks beside things done. I guess that's the up-side of a do-list (even if the chores seem to replicate like bunnies).

    Thanks, I hope that injection helps, too! The doctor gave Kiddo lots of useful advice. I so wish I hadn't waited so long to get a second opinion. His regular doctor was no help at all. We're ditching him.

  8. This sounds good. I read Masha Hamilton's previous book and thought she was a really good writer. I'll have to look for this one.

    Life By Candlelight

  9. Amy,

    Are you referring to The Camel Bookmobile? I've got to read that one.

  10. You've got me wanting to go out and buy this one right now. LOL It's at least going on my wish list. This does sound good.

    My to-do list is pretty scary too. I am still recovering from my back injury and it's put a damper on many of the things I need to do. I'm so tired of putting things off. I'm trying to be good though because I always end up jumping back into things too early and end of hurting myself more. This time I'm trying to be more patient. I hope the medicine relieves your son's pain!

  11. Wendy,

    I think you'd really enjoy 31 Hours.

    You have a good excuse for having a huge do-list. I have none. I just haven't felt motivated. Kiddo swam for the first time, today, and came out with his face all scrunched up in pain. He apparently overdid it and started out with a regular workout. Bad idea. At least we only have three more meets. Now, I'm getting anxious for the swim season to end, for the first time ever. I hope you heal well. Take your time. :)


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