31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

31 Hours by Masha HamiltonThis book I won from Dewey’s read-a-thon in October and it seemed a nice book. That is, the cover looked appealing (which is very important to me), but the book itself was floppy, a little on the big side (size-wise) and I didn’t like the font. Oh well, I just tried to read this book without prejudice!

31 Hours: What it is about

Jonas, 21 years old, has been missing for a few days. His mother feels something might be wrong, but then, don’t mothers always worry? Vic, his girlfriend, hasn’t heard from him for a week or so, but maybe he’s finished with her? He’s been a bit distant recently.

At first, no one is terribly worried but after a few more days, they decide to find him.

Meanwhile, Jonas, who turns out to be a taken up into the Muslim community, being brought up agnostic, spends his time in a different house (not his own) preparing for something.

There is also the sister of Vic, Mara, who is quite a bit younger and still living at home. She’s having big problems with the divorce of her parents and her mother’s reaction to it.

The book takes place within a 31-hour time span and the reader can guess that something will happen at the 31st hour.

31 Hours: What I thought

This book was utterly boring for me. To summarize briefly: in the first 100 pages, the characters were introduced. Nothing much happens until just before page 200, when there finally is some action. The book is 229 pages long.

There was too little action in the book. The author explored themes like mothers having to let go of their adult sons and how a teenage girl deals with the divorce of her parents. That was sort-of interesting but they were not the main story. The main story was Jonas and him going “missing” in the sense that he did not contact his parents or girlfriend even when he knew they must be looking for him.

This story had very little development and eventually, nothing was resolved, not in Jonas’ story, nor in the story of his parents and girlfriend looking for him, nor in the story of Mara dealing with her parents’ divorce.

With what the reader knows, they can easily guess what is going to happen and finish the story themselves. But hey, who is the writer here?

And here we have another problem, the reader indeed can easily guess what is going to happen. In fact, give the reader a bit of the premise of the book, and we can easily guess how the mother reacts, the girlfriend and probably what Jonas is up to, as well. We don’t actually need the book to know this story. In other words, the book stays too close to what may happen in reality. And what happens in reality is often not that interesting. I expected some interesting developments but they never came.

After page 100 I thought of giving up but then, there was one character that I actually liked enough to know a bit more about, and this was Sonny, the vagrant, who spent most of his time in the New York subway begging for money. His story was interesting but also ended too soon.

Each chapter had the New York time and the Mecca time, which I found confusing. I thought that maybe the story would move to Mecca at some point or alternate between Mecca and New York, but this was not the case. The progress of time didn’t help to make the story more suspenseful because at no point did I feel any suspense.

Was there anything, besides Sonny, that I did like? Yes, I did like that the characters were quite realistic and how the writer had given the characters a past. She mentioned small (and bigger) things from the past of the characters that made me think she must have given each character a lot of thought, to make them a complete person.

I also liked it that the New York subway played a large role in the book. This was Sonny’s place of work, and the other characters used it to travel from one place to the next.

I previously read The Camel Bookmobile by this author, which I found slightly more interesting than this book.

Rating: 2.5/5

I got this book: won it in Dewey’s read-a-thon, October 2010.

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 229 pages

First published: 2009

Genre: contemporary fiction

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

10 Responses to 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

  1. Cindy says:

    Sounds quite dreary, I’ll give it a miss.

  2. I haven’t read this book but I haven’t been drawn in and your review confirms this for me. Based on the synopsis it is a book that I would read but I do remember reading reviews when it was first published…

    Have you read her first book? If no, it’s very good (The Camel Bookmobile).

    • leeswammes says:

      Mari, I read The Camel Bookmobile, which I thought was a bit better than this one, but not brilliant. I liked the topic, but not so much the story itself, if I remember well.

  3. Nadine Nys says:

    Often, I think, the look of a book warns you you will not like it, and that was the case here, Judith (except the cover, that is).

  4. Lydia says:

    Doesn’t it drive you nuts when the plot doesn’t actually develop until well into the novel? It’s so frustrating!

  5. I saw this author speak at a local book festival, and I have to say that I was impressed with her projects. I believe she helped organize a book drive for that camel book mobile, and she also does the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, which gives Afghan women a place to write and get their stories out to the wider world. She was very inspiring.

    She did read an excerpt from this book, and it did not sound like something I would care for.

  6. Greg Michalson says:

    I’d just point out that The Washington Post named it to their Best Books of the Year list in 09 and gave it a rave review.

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