Book Review by Julie Kish
A novel by Ann Napolitano
The Dial Press, 2023
Hello Beautiful is at the top of the list for Indigo’s best books of 2023. I’m not always a fan of the books with the most critical acclaim, but in this case, I agree with the book lovers at Indigo. Hello Beautiful is a multigenerational family drama that I didn’t want to put down. American author Ann Napolitano has created a story full of complex, well-developed characters with heartbreaking and inspiring journeys. She does a perfect job balancing romance with storytelling.
Hello Beautiful is loosely based on the themes of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women. At the story’s center are four sisters, so closely bonded they “had beat with one heart for most of their lives.” Their parents, selfless Rose and kind-hearted Charlie Padavano have created a loving and happy home for their good Catholic daughters. The book title is taken from how Charlie greets his daughters each morning, “Hello Beautiful.”
Then poor William Waters enters the lives of the Padavano sisters. He was born into a happy family, but days after his birth, his three-year-old sister dies, leaving his parents irreversibly heartbroken. For his entire childhood he is emotionally neglected and suffers from crippling depression. He believes his parents, “only ever had one child, and it wasn’t him.”
Luckily William, blessed with above-average height, finds his niche and his substitute family through basketball. He meets and begins dating the oldest Padavano sister, Julia while attending University on a sports scholarship. When Julia brings William home to meet her family, the Padavano sisters instantly bring him into the fold, and William begins to call their mother “Mom.”
William experiences a newfound contentment after marrying Julia. Everything is wonderful until one tragic event after another causes William’s depression to resurface and jeopardizes the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The characters are so relatable the reader may feel compelled to intervene in their lives, give advice and urge them to make better choices. Instead, the reader must witness the catastrophic rift caused by their actions.
The story is beautifully written and a testament to the author’s writing talents. For example, while the reader is processing an unexpected turn in the story, she creates the perfect metaphor to add depth to the moment. “William’s departure had been sudden, but it had struck like lightning in the middle of a storm. Unexpected yet natural.”
Ultimately, Hello Beautiful is a masterfully crafted story about love, betrayal, death and forgiveness, played out by characters who warm the readers’ hearts and then break those hearts apart.
Hello Beautiful is Napolitano’s fourth novel. Her previous book, Dear Edward, has been made into a limited series available on Apple TV.