Arrivals and Departures.

Book Review for “Hello Beautiful” by Ann Napolitano.

Summary: William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household. But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?”

Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Era/s: Contemporary; Location/s: USA – mostly Chicago & Evanston, Illinois; Other Categories: Novel, Depression, Mental Illness, Suicide, Family Saga, Relationships, LGBTQIA+, Multiple POV.

Hello Beautiful AZ

When I realized that one of the main characters here was suffering from clinical depression, I almost gave up on this novel. You see, there’s no small amount of mental illness in my family, and this could very well have been a trigger for me. However, at one point I realized that this whole family seem to have issues of one kind or another, and dysfunctional families are about more than just a lack of mental health. In this novel, Napolitano does seem to delve deep into almost everyone in this family, to show us that the least normal thing on earth is normalcy. Or, so it seemed to me as I read this novel.

One way that Napolitano is able to dig so deeply is through her use of alternating POVs. Now, not every character here gets the story told from their eyes, but almost all of them do get that chance. We get a good deal of Julia and William, along with Sophie. Cecelia and Emeline also get a turn, as does Julia’s daughter Alice. Using this mechanic, Napolitano tells their story almost chronologically, with some small overlaps when the focus changes. So, for example, you will Julia from one point through to another, and then we hear about William from around the same dates; the next sections carry on from there. I liked this and appreciated that the months and years were in the chapter headings.

The ones that don’t get a turn are these girls’ parents Rose and Charlie, along with Cecelia’s daughter Izzy. I don’t think that Izzy’s perspective would have added much, but I’m a bit sorry that we didn’t get to see Charlie’s side of the story. This is probably why when Charlie dies (quite early in the book), all the stories of his kindness seem like a huge surprise. Up until then, he seems like a near-alcoholic, almost deadbeat father. I couldn’t help wondering why his generosity only comes through in retrospect, as the more I heard about him, the more I feel he was too minor a character, and the most underrated character of them all.

I’m guessing the reason for this was so that Napolitano didn’t have to go too far back in the family timeline, since the growth of these girls from High School students into middle-aged adults was enough to fill the whole book. However, I must admit that some of the middle sections here felt a bit slow for me, and I’m wondering if we couldn’t have started out with a little bit of Rose and Charlie, and cut out some of the middle sections that I felt dragged the narrative down. Thankfully, when Alice was old enough to have her own POV in the book, the pace ramped up again, and my enjoyment of the book returned to what it was when I first started reading.

Admittedly, Napolitano’s writing style is a touch on the bland side for my taste, and a bit more telling than showing. There aren’t a whole lot of descriptions, except when talking about how people are feeling, or when trying to make a point about something in particular. For example, when Julia starts on her professional career, we are given much more details about how she dressed and fixed her hair, which prior to then had both been mostly ignored. These are little aspects of the characters that Napolitano spreads throughout the book that the reader discovers almost by accident, and if we don’t read carefully, we might miss something that seems insignificant at the time, but later means a great deal. I call this intelligent fiction, which is also written with a whole lot of heart and sympathy, which makes us able to identify with each of them. This is why I’m recommending this novel to people who like a good family saga, with a very solid four out of five stars.


fc16c-netgalleytinyRandom House – Dial Press released “Hello Beautiful” by Ann Napolitano on March 14, 2023 (but not until July in the UK). This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks),, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.

This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#9).


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8 thoughts on “Arrivals and Departures.

  1. I read her earlier book – Dear Edward – and thought it was OK but could have been much stronger. I had the same issue with it that you had with Hello Beautiful, the prose wasn’t very engaging.

    Liked by 1 person

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