First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

A Palestinian American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut.

A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter or a Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter – radicalized by the online alt-right – attacks the school.

As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dream of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.

The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals, an emotionally rich novel that encourages us to reflect on our shared humanity. If others take the time to really see us, to look in to our face, they will find something indelibly familiar, something achingly beautiful gazing back.

It’s the 25th of the last month of the year. The Christian world is celebrating Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone! Happy holidays everyone! Personally, this year’s Christmas is different from prior years. This is the first time that I am celebrating Christmas not in the company of my family. Oh how I miss how the smell of food baking seduces my olfactory senses, rousing me from my slumber or how my parents would greet me a Merry Christmas early in the morning. This year made me realize how important these small moments are. I hope that I can celebrate important occasions with my family again soon.

In seven more days, a new year will unfold. 2020 is really ending. It is a very eventful year, like a stack of unfortunate events toppling one after the other like a domino. I have but one wish for this Christmas (and I hope it gets granted). I want this pandemic to be over, that we all go back to what we had before, albeit in what I suppose would be the “new normal”. I wish healing for the world and for everyone not just in 2021 but in the succeeding years as well.

Today also happens to be the last Friday of the year! Wah. As it is a Friday, it is time for another First Impression Friday update. In this week’s edition I am going to talk about my first impressions of Sahar Mustafah’s The Beauty of Your Face. At the start of the year, it was one of ten novels I listed in my 2020 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List even though I have never heard of or Sahar Mustafah before. Nevertheless, I was overjoyed when I finally received my copy of the book late this year.

The Beauty of Your Face is, I think, the third novel I have read this year that has Palestine characters. It revolves on familiar storylines, related through the story of two characters. The first and primary character is Afaf Rahman, the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls. Jumping between the present and the past, Mustafah weaves a rich tapestry of the Palestine immigrant experience. It explores the familiar theme of the quintessence of the American dream. It further expounds on the experience and the challenges of growing up as a female Palestinian immigrant. The second strand of the novel follows the story of the would be shooter.

So far, I have read more into the life of Afaf than into the story of the shooter. However, I do notice that Mustafah is trying to draw the psychological makeup of a shooter’s mind, including the rampage, and the motivations. I am looking forward to what happens when Afaf and the shooter crosses path. A sketchy image is already beginning to form in my mind but I am badly hoping that the story ends on a positive note. I am still trying to make out the correlation between the events in the novel and title. Is it physical beauty or ideal beauty? I am interested to know.

One of the facets of the novel that I am liking, so far, is Mustafah’s writing. Compared to most 2020 “new” books I have read, she has one of the most mature and compelling writing. Her execution, so far, has been on point. The transitions between the flashbacks and the present were smooth. I hope she sustains the consistency until the end. With the novel’s quick tempo, I will be finishing it this weekend. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!

Having read nine book from the aforementioned list, my 2020 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List is, so far, my most successful. Too bad I am missing out on Julia Alvarez’s Afterlife. However, I still think that nine out of ten is a good number.