Some books are so beautiful they take your breath away. Hello Beautiful, the 2023 release from Ann Napolitano, is one of those breathtakingly beautiful books. Full of complex family relationships, heartbreaking romances, devastating loss, and joyous reunions, this book has something for everyone. Literary fiction lovers will appreciate the prose, while romance and family drama readers will love the messy relationships. There's a reason why this book is showing up on lists of the Best New Books of 2023!
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An emotionally layered and engrossing story of a family that asks: Can love make a broken person whole?
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 it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty 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?
Vibrating with tenderness, Hello Beautiful is a gorgeous, profoundly moving portrait of what’s possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
What a terrific family drama! Hello Beautiful is a study of what it means to be a flawed human being who is free to love who we love even when it means we hurt everyone around us, including ourselves. It’s about making hard choices and sticking to our guns, even at the risk of losing ourselves or those we love. It’s about being a family even when we disagree, hurt each other, or misstep along the way.
At times Hello Beautiful has a film-like feel, as though the reader was watching the drama unfold in real-time rather than retrospectively as with other books. The third-person narration helps to create a sense of separation. Napalitano's writing is immersive and spellbinding, making it hard to put this book down. I was quickly drawn into the story of William and the Padavano sisters, finding the richly-drawn characters compelling even when they were not particularly likable.
While there are definite story arcs and times of intense drama, this is not an action-packed novel, so those looking for that will likely be disappointed. Instead, it's a steady-state read, focused on character development and intricately drawn character stories. This helps to make dramatic moments feel momentous because you're so invested in the lives of the characters. You can't help but take sides as time progresses, making it easy to negotiate the failings of favorite characters of which there are many.
Hello Beautiful will stick with me for a long time. Its enduring quality is the powerful interpersonal dynamics and the intense human drama that plays out over many years. Napalitano's writing shines in a way I never expected, making me a forever fan. I adored this beautiful character study and think that anyone who enjoys quiet, character-driven novels will, too!