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Reviews of Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Hello Beautiful

A Novel

by Ann Napolitano

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano X
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
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  • Published:
    Mar 2023, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Abby Edgecumbe
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward comes a poignant and engrossing family story 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 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.


February 1960–December 1978

For the first six days of William Waters's life, he was not an only child. He had a three-year-old sister, a redhead named Caroline after John F. Kennedy's daughter. There were silent home movies of Caroline in which William's father looked like he was laughing, a sight William never saw again. His father's face looked open, and the tiny redhead, who pulled her dress over her face and ran in giggling circles in one of the movies, was apparently the reason. Caroline developed a fever and a cough while William and his mother were in the hospital after his birth. When they came home, the little girl seemed to be on the mend, but the cough was still bad, and when her parents went into her room to get her one morning, they found her dead in her crib.

William's parents never mentioned Caroline while William was growing up. There was one photograph of her on the end table in the living room, which William traveled to occasionally in order to convince ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Who is your favorite character in this book? Who did you most identify with, and why?
  2. Discuss the rift that occurs between William, Julia, and Sylvie, and the choices each character makes to contribute to that rift. If you were involved in a similar situation, what might you have done?
  3. How did the ending make you feel? What do you think might happen for William and Alice next?
  4. Ann Napolitano has said that Hello Beautiful is an homage to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Have you read Little Women—and, if so, what traces of Alcott's classic novel of sisterhood do you see in Napolitano's?
  5. Hello Beautiful is initially narrated from three perspectives: William's, Julia's, and Sylvie's. Why do you think the author chose these ...
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BookBrowse Review


Each character has virtues: Sylvie, the bookworm romantic with her head screwed on straight; Julia, the planner obsessed with finding and fixing all flaws; Cecelia, the sentimental artist; and Emeline, the nurturing caregiver. Yet, most importantly, they have major flaws. They run from challenges. They hurt easily and hold grudges. They are emotional, they are thrown into irrational decisions seemingly at a whim. They have egos and tempers. But at the forefront of all the conflict is the desire for forgiveness: to receive it, and to dole it out. That, and the desire for love...continued

Full Review Members Only (708 words)

(Reviewed by Abby Edgecumbe).

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
Radiant and brilliantly crafted ... Napolitano's [work] resists the easy satisfactions of the sentimental and never settles for simple answers to emotional predicaments faced by her characters.

Oprah Quarterly
This sumptuous family saga is one of those rare novels whose singular characters are so beautifully rendered, it's as if they're your best friends, and you're grateful to be in their orbit. Napolitano's homage to Little Women, albeit set in late-20th century Chicago, will prompt you to slow down as you read, never wanting the book to end. When it does, prepare for tears.

This powerfully affecting novel illustrates [that] love and luck don't always intertwine.

Washington Post
Another tender tearjerker ... [Napolitano] compels us to contemplate the complex tapestry of family love that can, despite grief and loss, still knit us together. She helps us see ourselves—and each other—whole.

Kirkus Reviews
Napolitano spins a saga of familial love, deception, and hope for healing while adeptly highlighting each family member's unique position in the narrative. Napolitano's characters can break your heart as they work to mend their own.

Publishers Weekly
Napolitano explores the meaning of love and family with this striking story… [she] breathes great life into her characters, and brings insight into their quiet moments as they gradually come into their own. This will move readers.

Author Blurb Angie Kim, bestselling author of Miracle Creek
Hello Beautiful is a profoundly moving and propulsive novel about the deepest connections of family and love, trauma and healing. In intricately elegant prose, Ann Napolitano explores both the cost and power of loyalty and honesty. This is a book to treasure and share with friends and loved ones.

Author Blurb J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Hello Beautiful is the work of a great author at the height of her powers. Equally immersive, emotional, and brilliantly crafted, this is an early contender for best novel of the year.

Author Blurb Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes
A rich, complex family saga, Hello Beautiful is a portrait of love and grief in equal measure. Napolitano's prose is so lovely, so keenly perceptive, that it held me captive until I finished. A lot of people are going to love this story.

Author Blurb Miranda Cowley Heller, New York Times bestselling author of The Paper Palace
Ann Napolitano's new novel, Hello Beautiful, is exactly that: beautiful, perceptive, wistful. It's a story of family and friendship, of how the people we are bound to can also set us free. I loved it.

Reader Reviews


One of the most amazing books I have ever read. A book that can bring a tear to my eye is one to remember. I applaud the author’s ability to create characters so completely relatable you are drawn into the family. Kudos.

very highly recommended, poignant and complex family saga
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a very highly recommended, poignant and complex family saga. One of the best novels and character studies I've read this year. Absolutely excellent! William Waters grew up feeling completely isolated and ...   Read More
Aliya Hanif

Hello beautiful review
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a moving and thought-provoking novel about the power of love and family. The story follows William Waters, a man who is haunted by the death of his older sister, Caroline, when he was just six days old. Caroline's...   Read More

Could have been better.
Could have been so much better with tighter editing. This story could have been told in half the pages. It rambles all over the place for no obvious reason, like the author is worried we'll get bored. The basic premise is good - 4 sisters, 1st ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Therapeutic Value of Walt Whitman's Poetry

Black and white photograph of Walt WhitmanAnn Napolitano's novel Hello Beautiful is the story of four sisters contending with life and loss, love, death and forgiveness, and finding different ways to cope with hardship. The characters go through mental and physical rehabilitation and therapy, and make a string of rash decisions as they try to find a way to deal with the ups and downs of life. The poetry of Walt Whitman, and his views on the cyclical nature of life and death, provide a much needed coping mechanism for several of them.

Walt Whitman's poetry is widely regarded as therapeutic. In an essay titled "Walt Whitman's Search for a Healthy Mental Therapeutic," scholar Peter James Black asserts that in his poetry, "Whitman is suggesting that he can operate in a ...

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