Ann Napolitano, the brilliant writer behind Dear Edward (2020), has done it again with her latest novel, Hello Beautiful. While I normally steer clear of Oprah’s Book Club picks, Ann Napolitano is phenomenal, so I gave it a go.
We meet William Waters as a young boy in a house silenced by tragedy. His parents can hardly look at him, so it’s a relief when he earns a scholarship to college far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, an ambitious young woman. He is soon engulfed in her boisterous close-knit Italian family, and embraced by sisters Sylvie, a romantic bibliophile, Cecelia, an aspiring artist, and Emeline, the caretaker of the family. But William’s depression surfaces the entire family is upended.
Hello Beautiful is a tender, moving re-imaging of Little Women, Louise May Alcott’s epic Civil War portrait of the March sisters. Here, the author transports us to a real Chicago community, Pilsen, spanning the years from the 1970s to 2008. Napolitano creates a believable narrative with flowing prose and evocative characterization (although the eldest sister falls short in the likeability department.) This family is dysfunctional with a capital D.
The initial half of the novel had me eagerly turning pages, but as the story progressed, it felt tedious. Some might term this a “slow burn,” but I longed for more action and less emotion. In fact, the abundance of drama almost dulled its impact for me. The writing was amazing, though, and I would have loved to take one of her fiction writing classes.
If you are in the mood for an emotionally charged read, Hello Beautiful is just the ticket. If you are an audiobook fan, know that the narrator is a bit lackluster. 4 stars.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this novel. The opinions are my own.