Hello Beautiful

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April 30, 2024

madeline's staff pick

Ann Napolitano brings readers to tears with this achingly beautiful, heart-wrenching story about the tumultuous lives of four sisters: Julia, Sylvie, Cecelia, and Emeline, as well as William, a man who becomes interwoven into their lives.

William Waters has never really felt welcome in his home—or anywhere really. Until his impressive height gives him a welcome outlet: basketball. His talent on the court wins him a scholarship to a far from home university. It is there that he meets Julia, the headstrong oldest Padavano sister who chooses him immediately to be the man she will marry.

Julia has their entire life planned out, including a very specific, thought through plan about the man William should be: a strong husband, a good father, and a professor who provides for the family. Meanwhile, the sister Julia finds herself most connected to, Sylvie, has drawn herself into a very different love story. A young librarian, Sylvie has read no shortage of romances and has resigned herself to petty flings, only to prepare herself for the great love she believes will come to her if only she waits.

The characters often experience “I never thought I would” moments, or moments where they themselves acted in ways which surprised even themselves that drastically changed their lives. Many of which feel inevitable to the reader and yet change the fundamental framework of how the character is viewed and views themselves, much like what happens in real life.

Hello Beautiful pays homage to Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, rather than being a direct retelling. It acts as a well-timed reminder among slews of “which March sister are you?” quizzes and choruses of “I wish I were a Jo girl, but I’m an Amy,” that we are all made up of elements of each sister and can relate to all four at different points in our lives. None of the Padavano girls represents one specific March sister, nor is William an encompassing representation of Laurie, they are unique characters although each has their moments reminiscent of moments in Little Women.

The sweeping, intergenerational narrative has a clear emphasis on what holds the women together, and what threatens to tear them apart. So many different kinds of love are discussed, centering on a single question: can love truly heal someone who is broken?


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