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31 Hours Hardcover – September 8, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“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


“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

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932961836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932961836
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,995,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
Suicide bombers are a fact of life in the contemporary world. They are rarely political zealots, though they are recruited by such. They are the easily led, the disaffected, the mentally disadvantaged members of what Karl Marx referred to as the lumpen proletariat. The fact that attacks by these individuals, unfortunately led astray, have not been successful in the United States has been the direct and proximate result of the internal security that the chattering classes have demeaned almost from its inception; still, sooner or later, one will succeed here. And it will probably unfold in the manner described in 31 HOURS, Masha Hamilton's brilliantly understated novel.

Jonas Meitzner is the prototype useful idiot of 31 HOURS. Hamilton creates a picture of this twenty-something disaffected youth perfectly, without resorting to caricature. One cannot read a paragraph or two about Jonas without immediately recognizing him as one of the many graduate students who one will trip over when walking more than 20 feet in any direction. As the book opens, Jonas's mother, Carol, realizes she hasn't spoken to her son for a while and senses something is wrong. Anyone who is the parent of an emancipated offspring will know this feeling immediately; one either gets it or doesn't, and as painted by Hamilton, it is entirely believable. Carol stews for a bit, and then turns to Vic, Jonas's longtime friend who has recently become his lover. Vic, wrapped up in preparation for her debut as a classical dancer, realizes even before Carol contacts her that she also hasn't seen Jonas lately.

It turns out that Jonas has deserted his own apartment for an Islamist safe-house apartment.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was really excited to read this book when I heard what it was about -- a young, privileged would-be suicide bomber in New York City. However, the novel almost immediately goes off track as the author, for some reason, has chosen multiple points of view through which to tell the story, some of which do not at all connect to the main character and his plot. Whenever I found myself becoming engaged with the story, the author switched perspectives and I was immediately drawn out of the tension she had created. Most of the storylines end up unresolved, such as the irritating, precocious 11-year-old girl trying to get her parents back together, and the homeless man working the city's subways for pocket change. I don't see why these characters are even in the story at all is all they did was draw away from the novel's purported ambition. The novel also ends without any sort of resolution, which made me wonder what was the point of even getting to know most of these characters. I felt manipulated by the author, who promised something that never happened. This feels like a half-baked novel that probably needed another draft or two to come together.
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Format: Hardcover
I think that what I like best about Masha Hamilton's writing is that she takes me places I wouldn't normally go, and opens my eyes to things that I should see. In that sense, her prose is unblinking, simultaneously lyrical and stark. Hamilton takes what is universal--for instance, a mother worrying over her 21-year-old son who she hasn't seen or talked to in awhile--and transforms it, so that the reader feels viscerally what each and every character feels, from a prescient panhandler making his rounds on the subway, to an 11-year-old girl whose parents have split up and whose mother tailspins into depression. Then there is Jonas, the subject of all the worry, a boy-man who wants to change the world, and has been suborned into doing it violently. Hamilton makes even this believable. And that was before I even read my morning newspaper about the recent foiling of a terrorist plot.

I know the ending is going to haunt me.
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