Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review - 31 Hours: A Novel by Masha Hamilton

31 Hours: A Novel
Author: Masha Hamilton
Year: 2009
Page: 240
Genre: Fiction: NOT thriller

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Not sure...
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? New York
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
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.

First Sentence:
A wolf's howl.

Why did I pick this book?
Read many good reviews on other blogs, and it sounds like it'd be a fast-pace, gripping story!

My thoughts:
  • The book started out a bit slow, then it got a bit faster... then I'm down to the last couple of pages and the story was still going, and I thought to myself, wow, you really won't know the ending until the very end, would you?

  • Well, I can't talk to much about this book without giving spoilers... let's just say I was very disappointed. I guess I should have noticed it said "A Novel" in the title, instead of "A Thriller" - I assume by "A Novel" it just meant it wasn't non-fiction. I think another blogger (sorry, forgot who it was!) said this was more of a character study, rather than an action book, I think that's probably a good way to describe it. Hey, even the cover made it look like an action/thriller with the motion blur! I think I got deceived by the cover yet again...

  • I didn't connect with any of the characters, and kept wondering where the side stories were going... I didn't feel the characters have much depth, and the reasons given for the Jonas' ("the martyr") actions were too superficial, it didn't really go deep with his struggle

  • I didn't feel like I learn anything new from the book... I can see why the author chose to end the book the way it did, and many people loved how it ended... but I suppose it just didn't match my expectation... like I said, it's hard to explain in details why I don't like the book without giving the story away

  • Probably not many will give this book a low rating, but that's okay, this is my review :) This book in some way reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which many loved, but I found boring - I didn't feel what others felt: depressed, hopeful... I thought since I read 31 Hours after the recent failed bombing attack, I'd be more emotional or tense about it, but nope... (and yes I do cry when I read sad books...) 

  • Not for me, but given all the other good ratings out there, I think you'll have to judge for yourself


Have you read this book? 
If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
I'll link your review here if you wish!

100+ Reading


  1. The cover certainly seems to suggest that this is a thriller!

    Thanks for the review. I like your neat point-by-point analysis :)

  2. @Kals - I am easily deceived by cover art :) I decided to do a bullet point review because I found that I don't like reading long paragraphs on screen...

  3. I recently purchased this book. I've heard great reviews about it. I'm hoping to get to it soon.

    Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

  4. @Jennifer - I would love to hear what you think! Btw, love your avatar :)

  5. Masha Hamilton will be my guest on News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network at 5 PM New York time Tuesday March 9.

    To talk to her then please go to There is no charge.



  6. It's nice to find someone who shares my opinion of this book!