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Hello Beautiful


Hello Beautiful

The New York Times bestselling author of DEAR EDWARD returns with HELLO BEAUTIFUL. This triumphant, emotionally resonant story is about the transformative power of love, and the beauty and growth that come with meeting others as we are while accepting them the same way.

The Padavano girls --- Julia, Sylvie, and twins Cecelia and Emeline --- have long considered themselves Italian American versions of Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. They are woven into the fabric of each other’s lives, and they are so close that they have been able to identify, champion and celebrate the strongest traits of one another and use them to uplift the entire group. So when eldest sister Julia --- the spitting image of her driven, focused and critical mother, Rose --- finds a quiet, methodical and handsome man to settle down with in college, the girls are thrilled. As the first one of them to fall in love and add to their family unit, Julia gives the others hope in the promise that all will work out as they have always dreamed. Not only has she softened around the edges, she seems to have broken the curse of her own mother’s marriage to a pleasant and loving, but feckless and irresponsible man.

"HELLO BEAUTIFUL is a sweeping, perceptive and beautifully rendered family saga that could only be achieved by an author at the height of her literary powers.... Book clubs will no doubt find much to reflect on, discuss and deepen their connections with in this generous, healing novel."

Julia’s romance may not be the stuff of classics, but in William Waters she has found her ideal complement. A quiet but smart man with no serious ambitions (though he could do anything if he sets his mind to it), William is the perfect outlet for Julia’s need for control and ability to problem-solve. Within moments of meeting him, she has their wedding, careers, promotions and old age planned and sorted for them. Accommodating, polite William, who still cannot believe his luck in catching the eye of a gorgeous, brilliant girl, is more than happy to follow her lead. Until his own past rears its ugly head.

As a child, William lived for exactly six days as a younger brother until his three-year-old sister, Caroline, died suddenly in her crib. With his birth seeming to announce the painful end to his parents’ joy, William is left neglected and alone. His mother and father fed, clothed and supported him, but he never knew love or affection as a child --- at least not until he found basketball. Taking comfort in his ability to practice alone, William soon discovered a real talent and joined his school’s team, finding camaraderie and community in the sport but also a purpose. This necessary but unfulfilling coping mechanism guided him through college applications and acceptances. When he shook his father’s hand before leaving for college, he knew he would never see his dysfunctional folks again. Fortunately, he found a new family in Julia and her boisterous, loving home full of whimsical, serious and artistic girls, not to mention her parents, who quickly took him in as one of their own.

For the first quarter of HELLO BEAUTIFUL, Julia and William’s romance takes center stage. All seems perfect, almost alarmingly so. Were this novel written by a less accomplished author, their story alone might be enough. But this is an Ann Napolitano production, and therefore the narrative is so much richer and more complex. When Cecelia announces that she is pregnant at 17 and Julia quickly forces William to impregnate her as well, the births of their daughters do the same thing that William’s birth did for his family: they cause the Padavanos to implode. And when tragedy strikes them in a devastating, shocking blow, the entire clan unravels. Each is left to contemplate what role they really play in the family…and who they are alone, without the others to define them.

HELLO BEAUTIFUL is a sweeping, perceptive and beautifully rendered family saga that could only be achieved by an author at the height of her literary powers. At first glance an homage to LITTLE WOMEN, the book breathes new life into the classic by writing the sisters as individual, separate women: flawed, beautiful, demanding, loving and full of life. Each is wonderfully described, with Napolitano first employing stereotypes --- the bossy one, the bookish one, the artsy one, the loving one --- and then building strong, finely crafted and expertly nuanced personalities on these foundations.

But more than creating these vivid, relatable characters, Napolitano takes great care --- never wasting or misusing a word --- to examine their unique positions within the family and their own interpersonal dynamics. She often lays out a scene from one perspective and then goes back only a few hours or so from the point of view of another to analyze all of the emotions, pulls and draws, and painful decisions that go into every encounter: marriage, childbirth, sibling arguments, love, betrayal and coming of age. As the girls --- and William, my favorite character in perhaps all of Napolitano’s works --- transform and grow, Napolitano is constantly delivering uplifting, transcendent observations on life, love and what makes every encounter meaningful. The result is so beautiful that it is almost impossible to describe, an instant classic that will find a home with any reader.

An immersive work of fiction that is woven through with transformative, powerful grief, HELLO BEAUTIFUL is a soaring portrait of love. Perfect for readers of ASK AGAIN, YES, THE DEARLY BELOVED and THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD, it is sure to make many of this year’s “Best Of” lists. Book clubs will no doubt find much to reflect on, discuss and deepen their connections with in this generous, healing novel.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 17, 2023

Hello Beautiful
by Ann Napolitano

  • Publication Date: March 14, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press
  • ISBN-10: 0593243730
  • ISBN-13: 9780593243732