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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Bookmark: ‘Hello Beautiful’ by Ann Napolitano

Through a retelling of the classic story “Little Women,” Napolitano explores shifting family dynamics over several generations.

The Bookmark

Graphic by Carmen Smoak

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for “Hello Beautiful” (2023).

“The four sisters had beat with one heart for most of their lives.”

This line sums up the central message of “Hello Beautiful”: a close bond of family can span generations and survive many forms of disaster. Okay, so, I loved this book! Anyone with siblings or a tight-knit family will understand the deep bond the Padavano family has. Their love for one another comes before anything else, which is why the addition of romantic partners complicates their family dynamic so much (this is especially understandable considering two of the sisters share the same romantic interest).

One of the sisters, Julia, talks about the beauty of knowing every version of someone on an intimate level. “She and Sylvie and the twins knew every version, every age, every mood of one another.” Observing someone as they grow and develop while gaining a deep knowledge of who they were and who they are now is a unique experience that author Ann Napolitano perfectly captures.

I became very invested in each character as I read their chapters and I’d think “they’re my favorite character” until I read the next one’s story. The layout of this book creates the vibe of a short story collection, with each character’s spotlight moment providing little vignettes of their lives. Readers don’t get to experience any one character’s whole life, but they get glimpses of their futures in the other characters’ chapters.

The multinarrator setup reminded me of the recent Netflix adaptation of the book “One Day” (2024). Both “One Day” and “Hello Beautiful” show several small moments of the characters’ lives in great detail, and then skip large amounts of time. Therefore, the reader or viewer has to piece together what happened in the time gap through the context that the characters provide. This style can be a little unsatisfying at times because you don’t get every detail of the characters’ lives, but it’s a unique and fun way of storytelling.

“Hello Beautiful” is beautifully written, with lovely descriptive language, like: “words were like pebbles thrown against a window, and what she was reaching for was the window itself,” and “[her family member’s] deaths were now part of Julia’s topography; the losses ran like a river inside her.” There is simple language, too, with moments that prompt the reader to reflect, like: “Was life constructed of arrivals and departures?”

I know I’ve been handing out a lot of 5/5 ratings recently, but … this one deserves a perfect rating as well, for its phenomenal writing, unique narrative style and wonderful message. I’ll leave you with a quote to think about, as always (this one is very wholesome):

“Father and daughter had walked home, their arms touching, molecules dancing between them, and the stars turning on like tiny lightbulbs in the evening sky.”

Summary This spin on “Little Women” resonates with readers who are close with their siblings and shows off Napolitano’s skillful writing style.
5 Stars