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The decades-long family saga Hello Beautiful has absolutely swept readers away. This Hello Beautiful book review further unravels the literary magic of this stunning Oprah’s book club pick. This is the kind of book in which the characters feel real, and their actions cause you to emote everything from love to anger and sadness. See for yourself exactly what makes this novel so special below.

hello beautiful by ann napolitano.
  • Instant New York Times bestseller
  • A best book of the year by The Washington Post, Time, Harper’s Bazaar

Quick Summary

There are no spoilers in this section.

This summary of Hello Beautiful is meant to give you a quick overview of the plot and characters, in case you need a recap or haven’t read it yet.

Beginning in 1960 Boston, in Hello Beautiful, William Waters is a young man whose upper-middle-class family experienced a tragedy that made it hard for his parents to nurture and love him growing up. Instead, he found a home in the sport of basketball, and as a college history student and basketball player in Chicago, he meets and begins to date a fellow student named Julia Padavano. He also begins writing a book about the history of basketball.

Julia is confident and sure of herself and her future. Her life has been carefully planned and executed. She’s the oldest of four sisters in a middle-class Italian American Chicagoan family, who often refer to themselves as the sisters in Little Women.

Younger sister, Sylvie, is also a young woman, and she’s very bookish and romantic. And twins Emmeline, the caretaker, and Cecelia, the artist, are teens. Their mother, Rose, is a quirky gardener who can be stubborn and hard-headed. Father, Charlie, is a poetry lover who works in a paper factory and makes an impact on those around him.

William finds himself a home amidst the loving, yet chaotic, Padavanos. Thus begins an epic, decades-long saga of family, love, mental health, grief, anger, disappointment, resentment, forgiveness, guilt… AND SO MUCH MORE.

Hello Beautiful Book Review

Masterful prose, realistic characters, and a nod to Little Women make this novel a 5-star read.

Only once in a great while is a novel so masterful that you can’t bear to turn the last page (book hangover alert!). The last book that made me feel this way was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, which was written in 2019.

Hello Beautiful is a masterpiece. It’s one of those books that only comes along every few years (if you are lucky). It’s the kind of book you read slowly, page by page, line by line, and never want to end. It’s the kind of book with characters who feel like real people. And, it’s the kind of book that makes you wonder how someone can write so well, with complexity, multidimensional characters, nuanced layers, and exquisitely beautiful choices of words.

Just a few pages into this novel, I already felt inexplicably connected to William and the Padavanos, and I never had to remind myself who was who in this colorful, crazy bunch. That’s the mark of artistry.

And, these characters make choices and interact in ways that leave the reader with the most massive amount of topics and themes to think about and discuss. (See my Hello Beautiful book club questions for more.)

In closing, I’ll note that Hello Beautiful is one of my favorite books of the year, and I spoke with many, many readers who agree with this sentiment. It also came in second place in GoodReads Choice Awards for best fiction book of the year, with over 60,000+ votes.

5 out of 5 stars and one of the best books of the year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hello Beautiful worth reading?

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a bestselling Oprah’s book club pick that captured the hearts of readers worldwide. It is a highly-rated book worth reading if you like literary fiction books or family dramas.

What is the book Hello Beautiful about?

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is about William Waters, a young man whose family experienced the death of his sister, which made his parents incapable of nurturing him. He found a home in the sport of basketball, and as a college student, he met a fellow student named Julia Padavano, one of four sisters who forever changed each other’s lives for decades to come.

Who are the sisters in Hello Beautiful?

In Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, the four Padavano sisters include Julia, who is confident and goal-oriented; Sylvie, who is bookish and romantic; and twins Emmeline, the caretaker, and Cecelia, the artist.

What happens to Sylvie in Hello Beautiful?

At the end of Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, Sylvie dies from brain cancer.

What happens at the end of Hello Beautiful a novel?

At the end of Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, William Waters reunites with his daughter, Alice, and they begin a journey of forgiveness and understanding.

Conclusion

This Hello Beautiful book review unraveled a modern masterpiece with emotional themes and realistic characters to think and talk about for a long time after you turn the last page.

If you’re looking for something to read afterward, I recommend Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Clare Lombardo, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.

Keep the conversation going. Share your thoughts on this thought-provoking read or any questions you may have in the comments below.


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3 Comments

  1. So many threads weave through this book. It’s much more than a family saga.
    The silent treatment was the weapon of choice, wielded by two families, from two social classes and cities, who espoused Catholicism in their outward expressions, but manipulated, disempowered, and ghosted family members from Williams parents to Roses’s mother.
    The weaponization of silence became a generational go to and resonates with everyone of us that yearns to belong.
    The power of belonging and acceptance were demonstrated in the bonding of the basketball players across their lives. These strangers came together on the court, and were not blood relatives, like the sisters, but were examples of what it meant to care for a brother- over their lives.

    The silence as a weapon of power, masked as self reliance and self sufficiency, was never Charlie’s way. He valued individuals uniquely, which is why hello beautiful resonates. After rereading sections and processing the emotional traumas that certain chapters reveal, one recognizes
    several characters who exemplify, care and compassion in their work (coaches, psychiatrist, and three sisters), and prioritize no secrets, no BS, and redemptive forgiveness – of self and others.
    Themes of keeping alive our deceased loved ones, through (Cecilia’s painted images, or spoken word, gives us hope. Powerful!
    (Im one of four sisters. Our dad passed two years ago and he was the glue that held us together. Tears for sure.)

    1. First, I’m sorry for your loss. Second, thank you for taking the time to share such poignant thoughts. I hadn’t thought of the concept of “silence as a weapon of power”
      and the way you articulated it is so powerful. This is why this book is so perfectly ripe for discussion.

  2. All the reasons you loved this made me hate it, haha. The mom abandoning them, Sylvie and William, William having nothing to do with his child. I honestly think if there was no LW reference, I might have liked it better. It was nothing like LW.