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Review: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Hello Beautiful
Author: Ann Napolitano
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction 
Pages: 400 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map): USA (IL, MA)

SummaryWilliam 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?

Review: I kept hearing and reading about this book and how good it was (and I was promised tears). I did like it and appreciated the connection to Louisa May Alcott's Little WomenI kept thinking that the story was taking place in the 1950s even though it was the 1980s to mid-2000s. It somehow felt a bit timeless and old fashioned. That's not a bad thing, just an observation.

I enjoyed the first two-thirds of this book getting into the characters, their relationships, and more, but the final third did me in. I was glued to my seat and the book, not wanting to get up or be interrupted. I did shed a few tears as the storyline climaxed and all the threads came together.

I often wonder what it's like for my own daughter who is an only child (I have a brother), what she has missed out on, etc. But I realize she doesn't know any different, being an only is her normal. This book has four sisters, including a set of twins, who are all very close and each of whom has a role she plays amongst the sisters. Sometimes those relationships were helpful and sometimes it felt like they were enabling one another, which is so realistic and true to life. At times I wanted to scream at them to come together, to use their collective strength to help each other.

I felt for William in particular as he struggled to find his way in the world. He is the character with no family support (and, in fact, family who is absent) and no way to find his path. At least the sisters have each other.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Bookish--a dissertation/manuscript plays a pivotal role for one of the main characters
  • Big Summer Book Challenge

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