Ann Napolitano’s new novel, Hello Beautiful, deserves all of the praise I am sure it’s going to get. It is gorgeously written, with flawed characters so movingly portrayed you can feel the tenderness with which Napolitano handles each one. Even the ones you can’t quite sympathize with are never flat. Families come together, break apart, and come together again. Its March publication date, the month of March Madness, is also fitting, given that a central character, William, finds solace early on in basketball.
William Walters is a lonely child. Raised by two parents unable to move past their grief at the unexpected death of William’s older sister, Caroline, William gravitates towards basketball, first alone at the local park, then pick-up games, finally advancing to the varsity high school team. He gets a scholarship for college, moves from Boston to Chicago, and meets Julia Padavano, the person who will change his life. Julia brings him home to her poetry-quoting father, religious and pragmatic mother, and three younger sisters, Sylvie, Emeline and Cecelia, all of whom enfold him into their lives and hearts. His adoption into the Padavano clan is cemented by Julia’s determination that in William she has found the man she is going to marry.
Spanning from the 1960’s to 2008, the story shifts between William, Julia, and Sylvie, following their loves and heartbreaks, betrayals and personal epiphanies. Hello Beautiful speaks profoundly to the human condition and the consequences of making choices out of self-protective impulses. With gentle reference to Little Women, a childhood favorite of mine, Napolitano pays tribute to the heart of Alcott’s beloved novel and the realities of Alcott’s life, while giving us something so deeply affecting that there were moments that moved me to tears.
Hello Beautiful is going on my personal best reads of 2023, and this would be a wonderful choice for any book club. Or if you want to read about someone who really loves basketball while March Madness is going on in the background. We currently have signed copies, so pick one up today!