Book Report: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

April 20, 2023

Sitting on a balcony in beautiful Door County, WI, reading a stunning book–what could be better than that? Well, maybe a balcony with a water view, but no whining allowed.

So far the books I’ve read this month have all been worthwhile, even memorable. I wrote about two of them in an earlier post this month, Still True by Maggie Ginsberg and Women Talking by Miriam Toews, and in my April summary on Thursday, May 4 I will share the other titles. I couldn’t wait, however, to tell you about Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano.

I loved the characters, even when I didn’t like them. Sometimes I wanted them to be something more than who they were, but I admired the growth and the recognition of the pain they held within themselves.

I loved the writing, the impeccable sentences, and the fullness of the descriptions without being overwrought.

I loved the pace of the plot, Not too slow. Not too fast.

I loved that each chapter focused on one of the characters. The point of view, third person narrator, stayed the same, but somehow I experienced each person’s perspective.

I loved the overwhelming love, the humanity of that love, so tenderly, but sometimes so fiercely expressed. Powerful, redemptive, heartbreaking love. At times as a reader I wanted them to relax into that love.

Loosely based on Little Women, with emphasis on the word “loosely,” the characters have their times of being Beth or Meg or Jo or Amy. And there is a Laurie, too, in the character of William. We are absorbed into this family of sisters who don’t seem to need others until they do. A friend who loaned me her copy of the book said it made her envious of women who have sisters, and it made me think a bit more about my mother who was the oldest of four sisters and what her reaction to this book might have been.

Ok, the plot: William Waters grew up almost invisible in his own family when his parents could not cope with tragedy. He found solace in basketball and then in the love of Julia, the oldest sister. As each sister discovers her own identity and as William experiences a mental breakdown, all are forced to change and meet new challenges. I don’t want to say more.

A Few Favorite Passages

Julia experiencing the birth of her child:

She was a mother. This identity shuddered through her, welcome like water to a dry riverbed. It felt so elemental and true that Julia must have unknowingly been a mother all along, simply waiting to be joined by her child. Julia had never felt like this before. Her brain was a gleaming engine, and her resources felt immense. She was clarity. (p. 107)

They were dismantling their habits and routines, and it was like pulling up floorboards and finding joy underneath. (p. 349)

At their father’s wake, a young paper-factory worker said, It’s impossible he’s gone. And that man had been right–that had been an impossible loss…But perhaps what felt impossible was leaving that person behind. When your love for a person’s so profound that it’s part of who you are, then the absence of the person becomes part of your DNA, your bones, and your skin…the losses ran like a river inside her. (pp. 360-361)

“When an old person dies,” Kent said, “even if that person is wonderful, he or she is still somewhat ready, and so are the people who loved them. They’re like old trees, whose roots have loosened in the ground. They fall gently. But when someone dies…–before her time–her roots get pulled out and the ground is ripped up. Everyone nearby is in danger of being knocked over.” (p. 371)

Independent Bookstore Day is coming up on April 29. This would be a good book to purchase then. I guarantee there is already a long “Hold” list at your library, so unless you have the patience of Job or can borrow a copy from someone else who has had the wisdom to buy it, buy yourself a copy.

An Invitation

What book is tempting you these days? I would love to know.

6 thoughts on “Book Report: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

  1. Oh dear, I’m sorry to say that I did not like this book. In fact, I couldn’t finish it. I only got about 1/3 of the way through and I had to quit. Her characters felt forced to me, like she was trying too hard to show the reader who they were. I also felt the plot was predictable. Another thing that turned me off: this story was set in Chicago but it didn’t seem like the author knew Chicago, or else, didn’t research it.

    Right now I’m reading 3 non-fiction books: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Sensitive by Jenn Granneman, and You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith.


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