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Book club questions for Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano takes an in-depth look at this impactful multi-generational story. There will be spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review here.
I really enjoyed the novel. The author Ann Napolitano is so talented and her characters feel so real and raw. There are several poignant scenes throughout the story that really resonated.
I also liked the ending quite a bit. She really tied things up nicely while also leaving the door open for us to wonder what’s next for the characters. Great novel all around.
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him.
With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
Book Club Questions for Hello Beautiful
- Hello Beautiful is a homage to Little Women. What are your thoughts about homage storytelling? Were you a fan of Little Women prior to reading this novel?
- While the novel is very much focused on the four sisters—especially Julia and Sylvie—the story starts off with William’s tragic past. Why was it important to focus on William in the beginning?
- Let’s talk about the four sisters and their different personalities. Do you feel you’re similar to any of the sisters? And if you come from a family of sisters—how is your family dynamic compared to the ones displayed in the novel?
- What drew Julia and William to one another?
- Sylvie is very much a dreamer. In what ways was Sylvie similar to their father?
- Julia is very focused and has her life all mapped out and even picks out a career for William. After dealing with a hard background, William is grateful he’s no longer alone. Why were these two not a fit in the end?
- Do you think William ever did love Julia or was it more about being welcomed in by her family?
- In what ways did William’s traumatic upbringing impact him and his relationships?
- William has been working on a book and when Julia reads it, she’s horrified. Instead of finding a polished, studious effort: it really showcase William’s insecurities and feeling lost. How did reading this book change Julia’s opinion about William?
- And on the same note, why did Sylvie feel a connection with William after she read his book?
- When he finds out he’s going to be a father, he’s not thrilled and doesn’t seem to put much effort when Alice is born. After his lies catch up with him, William leaves Julia and his daughter Alice and tries to commit suicide. The basketball team and Sylvie end up rescuing him. What were your thoughts as this all unfolded?
- Why did William give up custody to his daughter?
- Julia is completely done with William and even tells Alice that her father died. Do you understand why Julia lied about William or do you think she should have told her the truth?
- The sisters have a fierce bond. But once Sylvie falls for William—everything changes. What were your thoughts about Sylvie and William? Do you think Sylvie was in the wrong or was it undeniable true love between the two of them?
- Julia feels betrayed and pretty much cuts off all communication with all her sisters. And as a result, Alice has no relationship with them or her cousin. Why did Julia cut ties with everyone? What would you have done if you were Julia?
- William is not in Alice’s life but she ends up looking more like him—even has his similar height. And her personality seems to align a bit more with William as well as she does struggle a bit socially. How did the absence of family impact both Alice and Julia?
- It’s eventually revealed that Sylvie has terminal cancer. Let’s talk about the eventual reunion with her and Julia.
- How will Sylvie’s passing change the family for good?
- Alice arrives to Chicago in hopes to meet with William. It takes a while but they finally talk. What did you think about their reunion? Will William remain a figure in Alice’s life?
- It’s eventually revealed that William’s cold shoulder to Alice was from deep-rooted insecurity—he truly thought she was better off without him. What were your thoughts about this? Do you think William is ready to finally move forward and leave the past behind?
- What happens next for the characters?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Hello Beautiful! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
If you haven’t read Dear Edward yet, I highly recommend it!
One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.
Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery—one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?
Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.
Check out my book club questions here.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Another family saga that is well worth your time is Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson.
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
Check out my book club questions here.