Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano was one of the most anticipated novels of 2023, and the book lived up to the buzz. Napolitano’s homage to Little Women sucked me in immediately, made me care, made me cry and left me longing for more. The story spans generations with flawed characters and second chances. There are scenes that made my heart ache for sadness and joy all at once.
Hello Beautiful focuses on the lives of the four Padavano sisters from Chicago and on one man who changes their lives. The story begins in 1960 with a very lonely only child, William, and four sisters who are so close they come as a set — Julia, Sylvia, Cecelia and Emeline. The sisters grow up strong and talented. Coming of age in the 1980s as more opportunities for women to find their own paths are opening.
Their mother insists on a college education for each girl. Julia meets William in college and decides he’s the man for her. At first the match seems perfect. However, when William isn’t the man she imagines him to be, everything changes and the sisters’ loyalty is tested. Is it possible to choose who we love? How much should family duty influence the way we live our lives?
Hello Beautiful is one of those rare books that swept me up into a world so vivid I could see it and still remember it like I watched it as a movie. I talked to friends about it, journaled about it and still keep thinking about it. If you check it out, I’d love to hear what you think. Email me at email@example.com
Check out these resonant stories about family and interconnected lives while you wait for your copy.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Black Cake is a journey through the life of a family with Caribbean heritage. The story shows how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history. In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny. They are left a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe and a voice recording.
Eleanor’s recording is a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escaped her island home under suspicion of murder. Eleanor’s heartbreaking journey, her secrets and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their family and themselves. Can Byron and Benny piece together Eleanor’s true history? Can they fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One of Patchett’s strengths is fiction that explores connections between people and how a person’s choices can impact many lives. In Commonwealth Patchett explores the decades that follow a kiss between two people who are each married to someone else. The kiss ends two marriages and leads to six children becoming siblings. Years later one of the siblings becomes romantically involved with a renowned author. She shares her story and he writes about it for all to read. This forces the family to revisit the past and face up to long-buried emotions. Available on Hoopla with no holds as an ebook or audiobook.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
The Immortalists is a page-turner that explores the ways our expectations shape our choices, and the impact we each have on the lives of others. In 1969 New York the four Gold siblings sneak out one hot night to have their fortunes told. They all learn when they will die. Over the following decades, each decides whether or not to believe in the destiny foretold. One runs away to San Francisco. One spends her life researching ways to live a longer life. One becomes an illusionist on the lookout for real magic. The last sibling becomes an Army doctor.
Does destiny define us or do we make choices that bring about the destiny we expect? Benjamin weaves the story with a magic so subtle that you won’t be sure.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
I haven’t gotten to this one yet, but based on how much I loved Hello Beautiful, I’m looking forward to it! From the publisher: “One summer morning, 12-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes.
“Edward is the sole survivor. Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery – one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life? Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.”
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If you haven’t ever read this one, or it’s been a while, this is a reminder to check it out! I’ve loved this book for the better part of my life. I have a feeling I’ll read it a couple times more.
Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters. There is talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy. The sisters are united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.
Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. Her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with eminent male authors Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne. Meanwhile Louisa supported herself and her sisters with the “woman’s work” of sewing, doing laundry and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing.
Little Women brought Alcott lasting fame and fortune. Far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America. Available with no holds on Hoopla as an ebook or audiobook.