In the middle of the night in New York City, a woman jolts awake, realizing she hasn't heard from her 21-year-old son in weeks, and knowing beyond doubt that something is wrong.
His girlfriend doesn't know why he won't answer his cell phone or why he doesn't call anymore.
What we know is that the young man, Jonas, is isolated in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, pondering his recent conversion to Islam and the training he received last year in Pakistan. Alone now, cut off from all dissuasion, Jonas is shaving his legs, eating a gyro, listening to the passing subways and preparing himself for the once unthinkable action he has been instructed to undertake in exactly 31 hours.
His sudden absence from the lives of those who love him causes a cascade of events that span the city. As Hamilton's intense novel moves through the streets and subways of New York, we come to know the fears and prayers of its characters. We also learn to feel the connections and disconnections that occur between people who have loved one another, not only here, but in the Middle East.
Carried by Masha Hamilton's lauded prose, 31 Hours is a compelling story about the helplessness of those who cannot make contact with a beloved young man on a devastatingly confused path toward violence.
All photos by Cheney Hamilton Orr