Rebounding from Life’s Mistakes

Hello Beautiful

By Ann Napolitano

When William visits the Padavona home for the first time, it is Emeline’s turn to cook dinner for the family. Cooking is not her forte, so she asks each family to select a TV dinner and gives each of them a crescent roll. William selects a turkey dinner. For your next book club snack, celebrate William’s first meal with the Padavonas by whipping up these easy turkey and cheese crescent rollups. They’re so easy that even Emeline could make them. Click here to view the recipe from Eating on a Dime.

** Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the chance to review this book **

After reading Dear Edward last year, I became an instant fan of Ann Napolitano. Her debut novel was a beautiful portrait of grief and the slow, gentle healing process that can arise from the ashes.

Now, Napolitano is back with another stirring novel about four sisters and the love that binds them together– even as one lonely man unintentionally threatens to tear them apart.

William Waters grew up in a home marred by grief. His big sister died shortly after William was born, sending his parents into a deep pit of despair from which they could not emerge. Discarded by the only family he had, William developed an obsession for basketball. Luckily for William, his body grew alongside his passion, and he soon found himself with a scholarship to Northwestern University. It was there that he met the beautiful, tenacious Julia Padavano.

Julia was the oldest of the four Padavano sisters. She was the guardian of the family who brought a sense of order to those around her. The next oldest sibling, Sylvie, was closest to Julia. She was a romantic who loved to push boundaries and lose herself in books. The two youngest siblings were twins– Cecilia and Emeline. Cecilia was a brilliant artist. Emeline was the caregiver of the family and was a famous in the neighborhood for her babysitting skills. Their parents, Charlie and Rose, were equally charismatic. Rose was often rash and emotional. Charlie was an alcoholic that infuriated Rose. However, he deeply loved his girls and was known to greet them with the phrase, “Hello, Beautiful.”

William was stoic by nature, and basketball was the only thing that stirred his emotions. Nothing else mattered to him. When Julia swept into his life, he was perfectly happy to go alongside her grand plans. She decided that he should pursue a PhD in history and become a professor after graduation, viewing basketball as nothing more than a game that William played before his real life began. Before long, he found himself engaged and then married.

Shortly after the wedding, teenage Cecelia revealed that she was pregnant, causing Rose to disown her. The pregnancy also angered Julia because she was supposed to have the first child. She decided to get pregnant so that the babies would be close together in age. When Cecilia’s baby, Izzy, was born, Charlie snuck away to the hospital to see her. After holding the baby, Charlie died walking down the hallway of the hospital, breaking the hearts of his four girls. Rose blamed Cecilia for his death, sold the family home, and moved to Miami.

Months later, Julia and William’s daughter, Alicia, was born. William did not know how to act toward her. He allowed Julia, who was empowered by the process of giving birth, to dictate the care of the baby. William hung back and didn’t touch her. While he didn’t treat his daughter with the same disdain that his parents showed toward him, he emotionally abandoned her just like they had done to him.

Prior to Alicia’s birth, William shattered his kneecap and effectively ended his basketball career. With his only passion gone, the walls on which his life was built became crashing down on him. He tried to handle the whirlwind by writing a book about the history of basketball. Julia found the book one day and gave it to Sylvie, the reader of the family, to judge. Sylvie read the footnotes in William’s book and felt his pain on a deeper level. When she encountered William at a bus stop one night, she felt an unexplainable connection to him, and they both realized they needed to avoid each other.

As William started falling deeper into despair, he began skipping classes in order to learn from the basketball team’s physiologist and watch practices in the gym. When Julia found out, William felt like he had failed her and the baby. He requested a divorce and disappeared. When Julia told Sylvie, Sylvie intuitively knew something was very wrong. She left her heartbroken sister in her time of need and organized a search party headed by William’s only friend, Kent. After hours of searching, Sylvie happened to walk by the river right when rescuers were pulling William out of the water. He had attempted suicide and was on the verge of death. Sylvie lied and said she was his wife so she could ride with him to the hospital. When she tried to contact Julia, Julia reiterated that William had left them. Not only did she have no interest in visiting William, but she soon accepted a job in New York City and moved away. The physical breakup of the sisters was only the first fracture that would follow them for the rest of their lives.

Hello Beautiful is a tantalizing tale of love. It explores the bonds of sisterly love, the love between a parent and a child, and the romantic love that can be both heartbreaking and life altering. It addresses the severe impacts that can occur when love is withheld, often breaking open silent wounds that fester as the person slowly dies within. It also addresses the steps we take to care for those we love with all our hearts. Love is a uniter, a divider, and the glue that bring us back together.

If you are looking for a heartwarming tale to get you through the long winter, Hello, Beautiful is an excellent candidate for the job. It provokes the same tenderness of Dear Edward, but in a way that is unique from its predecessor. Not only do I recommend this book, but it was one of my favorites for the year. Just be sure you’re prepared to hug someone you love at the end.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Rating System Explained

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was an amazing book, and I can't stop thinking about it.   It impacted me emotionally or changed my perspective.  My thoughts keep flickering back to it at random times throughout the day.  I will absolutely recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was a really good book.  Parts of it stuck with me, and I might mention it in a conversation.  There is a high likelihood that I will recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️:  I liked this book.  It allowed me to escape from reality for a while.  While I might tell somebody about it if I think it will interest them, I will probably not suggest it to one of my book clubs.

2 Stars ⭐️⭐️:  There's something about this book that I didn't like.  I wasn't willing to go all the way down to a one-star rating, but I'm definitely not digging it.  I may recognize that this book is not for me, but it might be for other people.  I will not recommend it to my friends or one of my book clubs.

1 Star ⭐️:  My rarest rating.  I really didn't like this book.  Something in the story line upset me, and I probably "hate-read" the majority of the book.  Not only will I not recommend it, but I will actively tell people that I did not like it.

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