I read an advanced copy of Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours recently. The story centers around the character of Jonas, a twenty-one-year-old man whose mother wakes in the middle of the night convinced, with good reason it turns out, something is wrong with her son. Jonas has converted to Islam and recently been sequestered. In exactly thirty-one hours, he is supposed to commit an act of terrorism in the New York City subway. Kinda gutsy, no?
Hamilton, an accomplished journalist who has reported from Afghanistan and the Middle East, expressed some concern about the novel’s risky subject matter when I interviewed her for Publishers Weekly a couple months back. “I think literature has a chance to explore these issues beyond just saying this person’s a nut. To take the next step and say, ‘Yeah, but what else are they? ’” she said. “It’s also part of what worried me. How can I make this where the reader tries to understand Jonas and not simply demonize him?”
Hamilton shouldn’t worry. Her journalistic background and knowledge of the material is evident and establishes a trust that lasts throughout and, perhaps more importantly, you’ll quickly find yourself wondering “what else” Jonas is.
Bio: Michael Archer is a founding editor of Guernica. His “interview with Wuer Kaixi”:http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/1050/i_dont_want_a_revolution/ appeared in Guernica’s June 2009 issue. Read the follow up to the article here. Read his last recommendation “here”:http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1142/staff_pick_michael_archer_1/.