Mswas’ CBR-III Review #3 – 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton01/09/2011
I really liked 31 Hours, until the unsatisfying end. Normally I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but be forewarned that I am going to discuss the ending of this book.
31 Hours focuses on a few main characters: Jonas, a young man who is in the middle of a plan to be a suicide bomber in New York City; his mother, Carol, whose intuition tells her something is wrong; his friend and lover, Vic, a dancer; and Vic’s kid sister Mara, caught between their parents’s divorce and living with a depressed mother. We do get insights from other peripheral characters – Jonas’ mentor, his father, a homeless man, and Mara’s father, but Jonas, Carol and Vic are the main voices.
Each chapter counts down the hours till detonation, and the tension is strong. Carol has an inkling that something is wrong with her son, but can’t reach him. Vic thinks Jonas has found another woman, and only gets alarmed when Carol reaches out to her. Mara has a plan to reach out to her father and ask for help. Jonas is searching for answers and believes he has found them in Islam and the teachings of his mentor, Mahmoud. Though I don’t agree with Jonas’ choice of violence, the insight into the terrorist mindset is intriguing and compelling.
The prose is gorgeous. This book is beautifully written. So much so, that when I got to the end, I wanted more.
“Their mother looked at both of them. ‘You girls,’ she said, and finally, shaking her head, she laughed. She actually laughed. It sounded gentle, like a real laugh, and it filled Mara with hope, and with a sharp longing she’d been denying — a yearning for those old days when twice as many people lived in this apartment, and it felt alive, and she’d never felt scared, like she did sometimes now, of shadows that stood in corners.”
But the end. The book ends with Jonas heading down into the subway. We’re not told what happens, whether Mara makes it home, whether his parents can find him in time, if the homeless man is caught in the blast. Nothing. Yes, this is supposed to leave us with questions, but it seemed like a cop-out to me. I felt cheated that there was all of this tension counting down the time, and then we don’t even get to the moment of the blast (or non-blast), we’re just left hanging 30 minutes before the critical moment…to make us think.
I liked Hamilton’s writing, and I would read more by her, but I don’t think this book deserved all of the stars I see on Amazon. Maybe she sucked me in so that I’m left wanting to know the end, to know the answer. Or maybe I just don’t get it.