31 Hours

( 14 )

Overview

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 somehow lost him. Jonas won't answer his phone. And no matter how carefully she shapes them, he won't return her messages.

His father says it can't be as bad as they fear.

...

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31 Hours

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Overview

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 somehow lost him. Jonas won't answer his phone. And no matter how carefully she shapes them, he won't return her messages.

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. There, in the belief that he can change the world, 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.

Jonas' isolation brings on an inevitable cascade of events. And as this stunning novel moves through the streets and subways of New York we see how lives can accidentally intersect — and how they might tragically fail to.

Carried by Masha Hamilton's elegant and powerful prose, 31 Hours is a compelling story about the helplessness and frantic hope of the people who can save Jonas — and countless others — if only they can reach him in time.

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Editorial Reviews

Carrie Brown
Masha Hamilton's career as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East gives her new novel, 31 Hours, the authority of a true witness…[she] has used both her considerable empathy as a writer and her experience in the Middle East to create an intimate portrait of 21-year-old Jonas Meitzner…Sensitive, lonely and full of the anger and doubt many young people feel, Jonas seems in Hamilton's hands not a stranger, not an impenetrable figure of dread whose behavior is beyond our understanding, but the ordinary, fragile child of ordinary, fragile people. You don't exactly want to look at the story of what happens to Jonas, but Hamilton has made it very hard to tear your gaze away.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Hamilton's gorgeous and complex fourth novel tracks the 31 hours before Jonas, a sensitive young man raised by idealistic parents (now divorced), straps on a vest of explosives and enters the New York City subway system to martyr himself. The novel begins with Jonas's mother, Carol, knowing, with a mother's instinct, that something is very wrong with her son. Thus begins an odyssey that takes her back to her ex-husband, Jake; to Jonas's girlfriend, Vic; and, finally to the authorities. Hamilton touches on many perspectives, including that of Vic, a dancer who is shocked that her longtime friendship with Jonas recently turned to love; Vic's younger sister, Mara, who tries to fix their parents' failing marriage; Sonny Hirt, an especially perceptive homeless man who senses something is very wrong on the subway where he's panhandling. Through all of this, Jonas ritually prepares for this final act of his life, but without the single-minded fanaticism one expects. It's a very tense narrative, vividly imagined and eerily plausible. (Sept.)
Library Journal
What does it take for a white, middle-class American to become an Islamic suicide bomber? How long does it take for those closest to him to realize that their son, their lover, their friend is about to become one of seven martyrs detonating deadly explosions in the New York subway? Jonas is a loving, sensitive, 21-year-old with strong intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately, "his ability to spot the wizard behind the curtain had for years plunged [him] into periodic depressions." Drawn to Islam's disciplined daily routine, he takes up with Masoud, who offers him a path to make the ultimate difference. Hamilton (The Camel Bookmobile) lets the tension build as each chapter counts down Jonas's last hours, alternating points of view among the clearly delineated characters. Hamilton slowly strengthens the connections from character to character and their links to the subway—the setting for Jonas's final deed. VERDICT Hamilton's novel raises many thought-provoking questions, which makes it a strong choice for book clubs and for readers who enjoy character-driven fiction with contemporary political relevance.—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
From the Publisher

“Hamilton has used both her considerable empathy as a writer and her experience in the Middle East to create an intimate portrait of 21-year-old Jonas Meitzner. It's not easy to like him for what he intends to do, much less admire him, but Hamilton makes us aware of his humanity…Sensitive, lonely and full of the anger and doubt many young people feel, Jonas seems in Hamilton's hands not a stranger, not an impenetrable figure of dread whose behavior is beyond our understanding, but the ordinary, fragile child of ordinary, fragile people. You don't exactly want to look at the story of what happens to Jonas, but Hamilton has made it very hard to tear your gaze away.”—The Washington Post

“Riveting…. a potent psychological analysis on the true meaning of loyalty -- to friends, family members and country -- and what any of us, given the chance, would to do to uphold it.”—The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Highly readable…keeps us engaged most with the desire to answer the standard thriller question: Can the killer be stopped?...Hamilton arrays her characters smartly, then points them toward the subway…Women, in particular, will inhale this book.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One of the best novels I’ve read this year.”—Carol Fitzgerald, founder, BookReporter.com

“Gorgeous and complex….a very tense narrative, vividly imagined and eerily plausible.”—Publishers Weekly

"How much can we ever know the ones we truly love? So asks Masha Hamilton in her riveting new novel, 31 HOURS. It kept me up all night, and left me in tears."—Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Sleep Toward Heaven, Love Stories In This Town

“Fascinating.”—Booklist

“A literary novel that is also as suspenseful as a thriller. "31 Hours" is Hamilton's third book, and while the phrase "break-out book" is often bandied about too easily, Hamilton has written something singular…Masha Hamilton’s new book has the pace of the most entertaining thriller, the information of an educational documentary, the compassion of an enlightening text, and the coherence of an artwork.”—The Book Studio

“Asks questions that have plagued our nation since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”—Cleveland Scene

“You don’t just read this gut-wrenching book; you become part of it in a deep, primal way. Hamilton’s story is so real and so raw, it takes over your thoughts and feelings and never lets go. We need to start a global book club and make this its first selection.” —Lois Alter Mark, StyleSubstanceSoul.com

"Masha Hamilton uncovers the complex humanity behind the horror of terrorism. Read it for the exquisite craft, but also for the entry into a world that’s often splashed in the headlines, but seldom so brilliantly revealed." —Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble and Coming Back to Me

"A book of hope, despair and yearning that stays with you far beyond the final page. This book is poetic, frightening, and absolutely impossible to put down. Masha Hamilton is one of my very favorite writers, and stories like this are the reason why." —Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses and One True Theory of Love

“Equal parts thriller and poetry, Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours had me turning pages late into the night and thinking about its startling conclusion long after I’d read the last page. In compelling readers to reconsider how we think about terrorism, this beautiful novel will provoke understanding, and perhaps even inspire us toward much-needed change.”—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

“In 31 Hours, Masha Hamilton tells the poignant story of mothering a misguided, idealistic, puzzling yet familiar young man in today's alarming political climate. It is a deep meditation on the roots of terrorism – and how closely related they can be to one's own family and home. The title is straightforward yet fraught with meaning; the gorgeous prose that follows wastes neither a phrase nor a sigh.”—Barbara Fischkin, author of Muddy Cup and Confidential Sources

“Hamilton’s novel raises many thought-provoking questions, which makes it a strong choice for book clubs and for readers who enjoy character-driven fiction with contemporary political relevance.”—Library Journal
“Without giving anything away, the ending can, and certainly may, spark discussion. (I can picture this book being discussed in a classroom setting.)…Hamilton masterfully sets up the tension until you, as a reader, get to the point of finishing a chapter and looking at your watch to see if you have time to fit in another. It’s like every character is a grain of sand spiraling down an hour glass. They slowly come closer and closer together until they all meet in the middle…Hamilton’s mastery of words will pull you in and not let you go.”—minnesotareads.com

“Brilliantly understated...as stark and quietly terrifying as anything I have read recently....A thriller in every sense of the word, it is also a work of literary fiction, a cautionary tale for the times taking place somewhere at this moment and for the foreseeable future.”—bookreporter.com

“Sometimes, even after the last word is read and the final page turned, a book is so full of unique and deftly drawn characters that they seem to continue living, free of the pages, ink, and binding that contained them. Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours is such a book, and each character, no matter how brief the appearance, is so vibrant and fascinating that the idea of the end of the book, the end of the reader’s ability to follow them as they live their lives, feels like a deep and tragic loss.” —Bookgeeks.co.uk

“I highly recommend 31 Hours … I’m still thinking about this haunting novel. Hamilton makes astute observations about human nature, the current political and social climate in the U.S., and she does this through characters that I truly came to care for and worry about.” —Julie McGuire, fiction editor, Internet Review of Books

“Gripping…I read with an increasing sense of urgency as the clock ticked down the thirty-one hours to the story's climax.”—Food for Thought

“Perceptive and cohesive throughout, 31 Hours makes for tautly-building suspense.”—Blogcritics.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609530112
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Publication date: 8/15/2010
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet 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.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    a timely thriller

    At three in the morning in Manhattan, Carol abruptly wakes up with a premonition that her son Jonas is in trouble. She thinks about it and realizes he has not called her in several weeks. Carol goes back to feeling uneasy as only a mom can understand. The next day she tries his cell phone and visits his apartment, but neither proves fruitful. She visits his girlfriend Vic, who informs her Jonas has not returned her calls nor has she seen him lately, but she has no idea what she did to make him so angry that he cut off communication to her. Vic's response sends Carol into a deeper panic.

    Jonas Meitzner is the son of an atheist mother and a Jewish father Jake whose parents were Hasidic. His parents split when he was young, but that did not matter as he grew up faithless, but recently discovered Islam. His spiritual guide Masoud believes that American society needs change from within violently; Jonas is an expendable tool to do so.

    31 hours until he puts into place what he learned while secretly sequestered in Pakistan; 31 hours before he commits an act of terrorism on the trains; 31 hours before his letters reach his loved ones; 31 hours before he breaks many hearts including that of his mom.

    Mindful of the young Minneapolis Muslims that apparently has concerned the community and the Feds, 31 HOURS is a timely thriller as loved ones increasingly become concerned when they lose contact with Jonas. Fans will feel the anguish of his mom, the concern of his dad; the bewilderment of his girlfriend; the disassociation of guilt by his guide; and finally him, the focus of those who care about him in varying ways as he knows if one of them besides Masoud reaches him he will falter with his beliefs. Fans will be hooked into this one sitting as a nice young man walks a deadly final 31 hours unless a miracle intercedes.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2011

    A Book With No Ending

    Give me a break. Don't write a book that is extremely good until the final page - where you are totally left hanging as to what is going to happen. Without an ending, it's pure crap.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2011

    Haunting!

    Could not put it down....

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  • Posted October 12, 2010

    Tense, terse and believable

    This is a plausible, well-written thriller that I could not put down and will haunt me for a while. All the best qualities of a good read wrapped into one!

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  • Posted November 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Compelling Page-Turner

    Carol wakes up, sure that her son, Jonas, is in trouble. He is grown and living on his own, but Carol still feels that tight maternal connection that she believes will always let her know if he needs her. She tries repeatedly to call him, but cannot connect with him. She calls his friends, but no one seems to have seen him lately. She goes to the apartment of his new girlfriend, Vic, but although she catches her coming home, Vic hasn't heard from him either. She is busy working on a new dance show and hasn't been home much herself, so hasn't thought much of Jonas's silence. Carol even contacts Jake, Jonas' father whom she has been divorced from for years to try to get his help. They try to reassure each other, but end up convincing each other that something serious is going on.

    Carol is right that Jonas is in trouble. Jonas is still in Manhattan, but has traveled far away in his mind. He is in a new apartment, a temporary waystation set up by Muslim extremists to house those recruits the night before they commit terrorist attacks. Jonas is there praying and purifying himself. Tomorrow morning he will strap on a vest filled with explosives and enter the subway to set it off. He doesn't want to die, but wants to make a statement that the violence worldwide must end. He is convinced that his sacrifice and the deaths of others will make his point.

    The reader meets other residents of New York City. There is Mara, Vic's little sister, who considers Jonas like a big brother. Mara is the only child left at home, which means she is left to deal with her parents' breakup and her mother's withdrawal as she grieves about it. Mara decides to ride the subway to her father's new apartment to try to talk him into coming home. We also meet Sonny, who makes his living in the subways, panhandling and getting by while homeless.

    Masha Hamilton has created an intriguing story. The tension rachets up with every page, as the reader realises that this is really happening, and wonders if Carol and Jake will find Jonas in time to stop him. The author is adept at setting the atmosphere of a busy city. Her real forte though is character development. Each character, no matter how large or small their part in the story, is fully developed to the point that one feels one could pick them out of a crowd. She makes us feel what each is feeling. It is impossible to put this book down without finding out what happens next. This book is recommended for all readers.

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  • Posted November 5, 2009

    A must-read, compelling thriller!

    "31 Hours" is a suspenseful and captivating novel chronicling the actions and thoughts of a deeply troubled young man, his family and others in the 31 hours leading up to his planned terrorist act. New Yorker, Jonas Meitzner, 21, is a sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable individual. A recent convert to Islam, he's isolated himself in an apartment, ritualistically preparing for his violent, lethal mission using the special training he received in Pakistan. He deeply believes the only way to change the unjust world is by instigating a moment of reckoning. Meanwhile, his mother's maternal instinct warns her something is terribly wrong and with the help of his worried girlfriend, sets out to find her son. Each chapter shares the innermost thoughts of his mother, girlfriend or one of the other linked characters, providing multiple viewpoints of this time frame.

    Ms. Hamilton has brilliantly crafted a complex, intriguing cast of characters, whose lives are skillfully woven together. Exceptionally well-written, she masterfully creates a sense of urgency that grabbed me on the first page and never let go. The exploration of the characters' thoughts was fascinating and gave me a greater understanding of their choices and actions. As I read, I found myself pondering Jonas' profound beliefs and the question raised about parental responsibility. I thoroughly enjoyed this truly outstanding book and I very highly recommend it.

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  • Posted August 12, 2009

    Provocative story about a missing son will haunt readers

    31 Hours by Masha Hamilton is a story that will haunt readers long after the covers are closed. Carol Meitzner wakes up suddenly one night with a mother's intuition that something is incredibly wrong with her twenty-one year old son, Jonas. She hasn't heard from him in over a week, which is unusual for the close pair, but this goes beyond the normal worries of a mother. For the next 31 hours, she will try to find him before something, she doesn't know what, goes irrevocably wrong. While Carol looks for Jonas, he is secreted in a small basement apartment preparing to take an action that will force the entire nation to rethink its violent nature. Hamilton's provocative book is a stunning read. Despite Jonas' terrible intentions, Hamilton has made him sympathetic to readers. He's not a brainwashed automaton or frenzied monster; his intent is clear (at least to him) and while he goes through periods of fear, he never considers backing out or changing his mind. It's Jonas' realism that makes him so frightening; he could be any college student who feels disenfranchised with the United States. Hamilton keeps the suspense drawn so tightly that there were entire chapters where I forgot to breathe, only catching a breath with the blank page at the end of a chapter. Brilliantly written, this is a book that won't let the reader go easily.

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    Posted March 22, 2011

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    Posted July 15, 2011

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