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BOOK REVIEW OF 31 HOURS by Masha Hamilton

October 28, 2009

“When Carol Meitzner jolts awake in the middle of a long night, she knows–as surely as a mother CAN know–that her son Jonas, is in danger. His girlfriend doesn’t understand why but she knows she has lost him. He won’t answer his phone. His father says it can’t be as bad as they fear. But it is. Jonas is in a safe house beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. He ponders his newfound faith–and his specialized training. Over the next 31 hours, he will cleanse himself, mind and body, in preparation for the violent action he means to take when the subways are most crowded.”

I found the novel to be a compelling look at today’s world, especially in light of the terrors of our post 9/11 culture. Hamilton is clearly a gifted writer. She imbues the characters with a rich inner dialogue, fleshing them out so we really feel we get to know them well–not an easy task. The descriptions she gave of Jonas, and his mother Carol were particularly detailed and full of a backstory that seemed real. I felt that I really got to know Carol as a mother and how hard it was for her to let her son grow up and away from her, yet still hang on to him and know ultimately that something was seriously awry.

My only criticism was that I felt the book ended so abruptly; though I do understand why Hamilton made that choice. The point of the novel was what led up to the inevitable conclusion, not the actual act itself. She’s clearly a poetic writer, not perhaps one looking to write about the gore we all saw first hand, and for that I’m actually grateful. Her prose is beautiful, her characters heartbreaking.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth your time.

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