Take a moment and consider: What is the most important thing in your life? Family, career, faith and friendship typically take the top spots. But what if your top priority is second or third most important to your best friend? Your husband? What then?
Best friends Amra and Zainab are forced to consider this question in Jennifer Zobair’s brilliant debut novel, “Painted Hands.” Both women have high-profile jobs in Boston — Amra work 90-hour weeks in the hopes of making partner while Zainab puts out fires for a Senate candidate — and have successfully dodged proposal-slinging family members in order to make it on their own.
But both women find themselves falling for a pair of unlikely suitors, including a traditional Muslim man and a conservative radio host. When backlash from a thwarted terrorist plot threatens Zainab’s job and a woman-led Muslim prayer service leads to violence, both women are forced to reconsider the delicate balance between faith, career, and family — while also finding a way to maintain their lasting friendship.
“Painted Hands” challenges readers to consider multiple perspectives and approaches to moving through the world. Zobair tells the story from five points of view, including Chase, a conservative radio host, and Hayden, a recent convert to Islam. As a result, readers sympathize with each character and see multiple sides to each situation.
In addition to tackling a number of important themes, Zobair’s book is also wickedly funny. Zobair’s careful pacing and balanced development of main and secondary characters makes “Painted Hands” read like bingeing on an extremely well-written sitcom.
“Painted Hands” is easily the best book I’ve read all year, and the best book I’ve read in a long time. Because no other author has so nailed the different directions we are pulled in life: the power of a strong faith community, the essence of family, and also the importance of ambition and friendship.This is a novel that will give you a more complete picture of the world around you — and of yourself.