Editorial note: I received a copy of Hello Beautiful in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a captivating examination of family, love and forgiveness.
I feel Ann Napolitano is one of the best literary fiction writers out there today. Her novels are so moving, vivid and truly capture the essence of humanity. She writes about extremely tough subject matters in such a delicate but quite impactful way. I’m such a fan of hers, which is one reason why I selected Hello Beautiful as a must-read book club pick for 2023.
For instance, if you haven’t read Dear Edward (and the series is now out on Apple TV+), I highly recommend it. I was hesitant at first—reading about the sole survivor of a plane crash seemed really depressing. And it is really sad. But again, it’s handled with care and it’s very moving.
It’s interesting to think that I read Dear Edward exactly three years ago in 2020 as we were dealing with the start of a pandemic. While neither book features a pandemic, both cover broken people, heartbreaking loss and family love. These are the kind of stories that remind me you of what’s important in life.
On the surface, Hello Beautiful is a smaller scale story focusing on a close-knit group of sisters. It’s a homage to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, yet the story very much stands on its own. There’s a lot of depth and covers a wide range of themes. I see why Oprah selected it for her 100th book club selection. This is one of those novels that is absolutely a perfect fit for book clubs.
What’s the Story About
Hello Beautiful centers around the Padavano family and specifically, on the four sisters: Julia, the go-getter of the family; Sylvie, the bookish dreamer; Cecelia, the free-spirited artist; and Emeline, the compassionate nurturer. The sisters are as close as they can be and always have each other’s backs.
Everything changes when Julia meets William Walters, a shy and broken man with a tragic past. William is immediately taken with Julia’s vibrance and is especially happy to be welcomed into a new family.
However, William’s past eventually resurfaces. And as a result, the sisters’ seemingly unbreakable bond is broken.
Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
Little Women is the gold standard for stories about sisters. Sometimes homages to literary classics miss the mark or rely too much on the original source material that they don’t feel authentic.
But in the case of Hello Beautiful, Ann Napolitano pays tribute to the classic while also ensuring the story stands on its own. The sisters within Hello Beautiful are also fans of Little Women and even compare themselves to the sisters of the story, which I thought was a nice touch.
I was so fascinated by the different dynamics of the four sisters, especially that of Julia and Sylvie. Those two characters, along with William, are the main focus of the story. If I have one criticism, it’s that I would have liked a little more from Cecelia and Emeline. While they are in the story, they do take a backseat and I think they could have been developed more.
Everything changes when William comes to the picture. Who would expect such a quiet, unassuming man to have such an impact? But he does.
William’s backstory is quite sad—he was unloved as a child. His parents failed him. They couldn’t get past their own grief of losing William’s older sister. There’s a vivid description of William as a child coughing in a closet so he wouldn’t bother his parents with an illness as he believed it would have reminded them of what they lost.
It’s so sad for a child to have to think like that and feel so alone. I couldn’t get over the cruelty of his parents and it does have such a lasting impact on him. He’s a very complex character. You’ll feel sympathetic but he also makes some choices that are quite cold. And the reason behind is apparent but it doesn’t change the outcome.
Still, William grows quite a bit in the novel and I really liked his character arc overall.
This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. There are certain stories that truly get to you and stay with you for a long time. It’s a beautiful story about family bond and love.
If you’re looking for a well-done literary fiction story, this is the one for you. An ideal book for book clubs as there is a ton to discuss, analyze and even debate about. All the stars for Hello Beautiful.
Check out my book club questions here.
Tuesday 11th of April 2023
I'm confused. I thought this was the worst book I've ever read. It wasn't fluid and left out a lot regarding the parents that raised this group. Both Rose and Williams parents were flat...........why? I had a hard time staying engaged, and felt it fell way short of the raving reviews.