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Do you ever feel your mother’s intuition at work? Then read this…(Redux)

September 9, 2009

Hi Everyone! Exciting book alert!!

Reviews so far are very good; I look forward to a provocative and absorbing read from a talented writer.

(photo credit: Briana Orr)

Below is an essay by author and journalist Masha Hamilton. Here she is discussing the motivation behind her recently released novel “31 Hours.”
Parenting the Nearly-Grown
by Masha Hamilton
“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.

Not long after the second of my three children was born, I sat at the kitchen table late one evening talking to my dad about parental responsibility. It’s a big topic and we were covering lots of philosophical ground, but what I remember most is my pronouncement that my primary job could be boiled down quite simply and starkly: I had to keep safe these beings released into my charge. I needed to keep them alive.
These were the musings of a new parent, of course. The circumstances, too, should be considered; the first child had been born in Jerusalem during the intefadeh, and the second was born as I was reporting from Moscow during the collapse of Communism. In both situations, I repeatedly came face-to-face with life’s fragility.
But even in calmer times, even after the birth of my third child, I never lost the feeling that my main duty was to pass them on into adulthood as unscathed as possible, as healthy in every way as they could be.
It sounds pretty simple, on the face of it. We perform many jobs as parents: nurturers, playmates, cheerleaders, short-order cooks, nurses, disciplinarians, detectives, spiritual leaders. Keeping them safe should not be the hardest, not with the help of baby monitors, plastic devices to cover electrical outlets, pads for sharp corners, child-proof medicine bottles, the list goes on.

And in fact, we passed through well, with just the usual rounds of stitches, one violent dog attack, a rabies scare and a few months when my youngest fell so often and got so many bumps on his forehead that my husband and I joked someone was surely going to call child services on us.

Now, though, my youngest is 14, and as they’ve grown, I recognize my job has been transformed. It is to give them trust and space so they can develop confidence in their ability to make their own lives. And yet the two oldest, at ages 19 and 20, are in a period of time that seems almost like a parentheses in their lives. They are certainly not children, but nor are they quite adults. Meanwhile, I say and think all the usual things parents have been saying and thinking since—well, perhaps ever since Cicero, whose words I keep taped to my office wall: it’s rougher out there than it was in my time. More chaotic. More violent. More dangerous.
And everyone is writing a book.
It was, in fact, into my latest novel, 31 Hours, that I channeled my fears. Among other things, the novel offered a chance to explore what it means to be the parent of someone on the cusp of adulthood but not yet there. The mother in 31 Hours, Carol, is strong and independent, free of empty nest syndrome, but her maternal intuition is strong and she’s concerned about her 21-year-old son’s growing emotional distance, the way he seems tense and depressed. Her fears are amorphous and hard to convey; nevertheless, as she lies awake in the dark, she decides to trust the hunch that something is wrong, and to spend the next day trying to track her son Jonas down and “mother him until he shrugs her off.”
There are many themes in the novel, but one question it asks—one pertinent to all parents and one I’m still trying to answer for myself—is this: after years of being vigilant and protecting our kids, what should we do—and what are we allowed to do—to keep them safe once they are nearly, but not quite, grown?”
Here is a description of the book and some author information for you:
A woman in New York awakens knowing, as deeply as a mothers 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. Carried by Hamilton s highly-lauded prose, this story about the helplessness of those who cannot contact a beloved young man who is on a devastatingly confused path is compelling on the most human level.
About the Author:
31 Hours is Masha Hamilton’s fourth novel, following the acclaimed The Camel Bookmobile. She is also a journalist who has reported most recently from Afghanistan, and from the Middle East, Russia and Africa. She lives in Brooklyn.
Unbridled Books is sending me a copy for review and I’m quite excited to read it! Once I do, I will share my thoughts with you here on my blog and on FaceBook and Twitter. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, please go out and buy the book yourself and support this clearly talented female writer.
As we approach the eighth anniversary of 9/11 (my God!), I love how Ms. Hamilton is able to put a mother’s spin on that tragic event and its aftermath as well as bind it with something all mothers (heck even father’s too) can relate to–our little birds growing and flying away from us. For me, that is quite an amazing feat and eloquence at its best.
(For even MORE information on Masha Hamilton, here is a link to her website:

One Comment
  1. Good one on Intuition and it helps a lot.

    Thanks,
    Karim – Mind Power

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