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Thoughts on 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

31 Hours
by Masha Hamilton
240 pages
Published September 8, 2009
Fiction, literary

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton explores the far reaching effects of one young man’s choice to blow himself up in a NY subway. The book explores the interconnectedness of folks before this young man, Jonas, follows through with his decision.

31 Hours was chosen for my book club, and most everyone enjoyed this book more than me. I felt like the book took folks who were connected in some way to Jonas, but never connected them to each other. Because 31 Hours was trying to explore so many relationships, it failed to fully explore Jonas, his childhood, his family, etc. Sure, it touched on those things.

He’d been such an empathetic child, feeling everything from Carol’s pain at the breakup to the loss of a belly-up goldfish that had to be flushed.

So of course, with all this sensitivity, when he reached adolescence, he began questioning. He went through periods of doubting the values of everyone around him, from the principal of his school to the director of this theater group to the artists Jake [Jonas’ dad] represented, and finally to her, his mom. And she was fine with that. She could stand up to a bit of close examination, she told herself; she wasn’t that bad. Besides, how much worse if she’d raised a little Republican who bought into it all without any reservations?

Okay, yes, the author has TOLD me that Jonas was sensitive and questioning, but she never SHOWS me. The author is so busy TELLING me how the story plays out, that she forgets to show me how the story plays out.

I am ALL ABOUT random connections. But I really feel like at least two connections could have been left out of the story and nothing would have been lost. 31 Hours was short, and I would have loved to have had the story more fleshed out in order to really delve into WHY this happened.

Rating: 60 out of 100

Masha Hamilton’s website

Other reviews:

I’m Booking It (loved it)

Booking Mama (loved it)

She Is Too Fond of Books (loved it)

S. Krishna’s Books (loved it)

Linus’s Blanket (loved it)

Bermudaonion’s Weblog (loved it)

Care’s Online Book Club (loved it)

Beth Fish Reads (liked it more than me, less than others)

| Tags: , 9 comments »

9 Responses to “Thoughts on 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton”

  1. zibilee ()

    I have had this book on my shelf for the longest time, and have not yet gotten the chance to read it. It does sound like it’s interesting, but after reading your review, I think it might be one that I would feel less connected to as well. Thanks for the great review. I guess this one will stay on the bottom of the stack!


  2. Sandy

    I had actually pitched this book to my book club, but never got any buyers. I still would like to read it I think, but I do always appreciate the contrary opinion (probably because I’m often the one offering it!). Gives a good balance just to keep everything in perspective.


  3. bermudaonion (Kathy) ()

    Sorry you didn’t love this! I think it struck a chord with me because my son was away at school at the time and believe me, males who are away from home don’t communicate much.


  4. Lisamm

    I liked this book a LOT more than you did. It wasn’t perfect, and the end drove me crazy, but it gave me a lot to think about, and it’s one I’d love to discuss with my book club. Something that I continually thought about while reading it was: when does a parent’s responsibility for a kid’s actions really end? At what point can you let go? And what happens when a kid who grows up believing in nothing (or- conflicting things) feels spiritually lost? I thought the multiple connections were good and truly illustrated all the missed opportunities for a deeper connection with Jonas that may have made a difference in his life and what he was about to do. I thought the author actually did a very good job of showing Jonas’ sensitivity, not so much as a child but as a young adult (with the girlfriend, in the sandwich shop, and all the thinking he was doing as he was preparing). Anyway, I read this months ago and still contemplate little things about it. I thought it was very very good and one that would be terrific for discussion.


  5. mary Ann Langan ()

    Thanks! for sharing


  6. Beth F ()

    Oh gosh — I remember that this was one difficult book to review. Tons to talk about though.


  7. Lisa

    I really liked this one and felt like I knew quite a bit about Jonas from his own reflections and Vic’s, in particular. I liked the character of Sonny but felt like he could have been left out entirely and much more time been spent on Jonas. I suppose the point of introducing him was as a counterpoint to the affluence in this country.


  8. Masha Hamilton

    It has been fun to stumble here and get to eavesdrop for a moment. As an author, I enjoy the wide range of opinions… I worked hard on the “why” issue — in fact, I did so much research into extremist groups and recruitment techniques and the kind of personality that might be susceptible that I set off alarms somewhere and for a while, my phone was bugged! That said, I do understand the difficulty of wrapping our heads around the “why.” Anyway, THANKS much for reading the novel! Warmly, Masha


  9. christa @ mental foodie

    I thought I was the only one who didn’t like this book as much as others – there were so many positive reviews! I think I had a different expectation for this book, and hence, was disappointed when it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I also felt that there must be one great connection with all the side stories, but it didn’t quite connect. My review:


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