There is a family of ten (10!!!) sisters who live in my neighborhood, a suburb of Washington, DC, and I am friends with almost all of them. I see some of them almost every weekend as they are all parishioners at my church. They have created something like 32 first cousins among their respective families. As I have no sisters, I am somewhat envious of them, with lifelong best friends as they seem to be, always there to support each other, to lean on each other, to draw strength from one another, to celebrate together, to grieve together. It is this very notion that drew me into Ann Napolitano’s latest novel, Hello Beautiful.
My first experience with Ann Napolitano was her bestselling novel Dear Edward. That book, the very last book I checked out of the library on the day before the pandemic shut down the public libraries in my county, stayed with me a very long time. While tragic in its exposition, the central part of the book was pure beauty. Napolitano created the absolutely perfect demeanor for two people faced with a huge challenge, raising their recently orphaned nephew. These two people did everything right. I just loved that book so much, and when I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Napolitano’s latest novel, I JUMPED at the chance. I was not disappointed.
This story will stay with me for a very long time, once again. It has sparked in me once again my yearning for sisters, since I was only blessed with two brothers. I absolutely loved the relationship between the four Padavano sisters, their delicate and sometimes challenging relationship with their parents, and their very different and distinct outlooks on life, fueled by their own unique talents and ambitions. Napolitano deftly managed to fully develop each sister as a complete and whole individual, but also to create a family unit of four sisters who were everything to each other.
I took my time reading this book, partly because I was busy with my day job teaching middle school English and literature, but largely because I simply didn’t want it to end. I was happily ensconced in the Padavano world, in the tragedies that separated the sisters, and in the familial love and strong genetics that connected them at a much deeper level. Napolitano must have sisters; she simply couldn’t have written such strong bonds without having experienced them herself.
As I was reading this book on a Kindle, I could see by the percentage read that I was getting closer and closer to the end. Yet, I didn’t feel closure coming, and I was somewhat anxious that this book was going to end with me wanting more. I was right. The book seems to just end. No spoilers from me, but I sense that Napolitano is not done with the Padavano sisters and is already at work on a sequel, picking up where Hello Beautiful ends. I’d be quite happy to go back to Chicago and revisit the Padavano world again. Thank you to Random House for the advance copy of Hello Beautiful, and thank you Ann Napolitano for a beautiful story!