Hello Beautiful is a charming exploration of family, friends, love, and loss. Written as homage to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the story focuses on a close-knit group of sisters. The book has a lot of depth and it covers a wide range of themes. Identity and bonds of sisterhood are major themes in the early chapters, and alienation and reconciliation within families are recurring themes throughout.
Be prepared for a compelling conversation using our Hello Beautiful book club questions. This Hello Beautiful discussion guide features a book synopsis, 10 book club questions, and some selected reviews. And if you enjoyed the book, scroll to the bottom for some suggestions for related reads.
Hello Beautiful Synopsis
(We always chose to provide the publisher synopsis because we feel that it’s worthwhile to discuss whether the official book description actually squared with your experience of the book.)
Hello Beautiful, Ann Napolitano
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 when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion 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?
An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
10 Hello Beautiful Book Club Questions
- This novel pays homage to Alcott’s Little Women, centering around a close-knit group of sisters. How would you Padavano girls to the characters in Little Women? Did your pairing change as the story progressed?
- Some of the characters seem to repeat their parents’ mistakes. William was pushed away by his parents and then he repeated the cycle, pushing away his own daughter. Rose was shunned by her mother for getting pregnant with Julia, then she did the same thing when Cecelia got pregnant. Were there any other instances when the characters repeated cycles of their predecessors?
- Hello Beautiful features many romantic partnerships: Charlie and Rose, Julia and William, Emeline and Josie, and William and Sylvie. Which relationship do you think was the most ideal in terms of love and partnership? Which was the most challenging?
- “The idea of love in those books–Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina–is that it’s a force that obliterates you. They’re all tragedies, Sylvie. Think about it; those novels all end with despair, or death.”
Did you find it tragic that the most romantic sister was the one to die first?
- Much of the plot of Hello Beautiful is driven by secrets. How do these secrets create major plot events and impact the way the characters develop and change?
- There are a lot of Walt Whitman poetry references throughout the novel. How are Whitman’s transcendentalist ideas explored in Hello Beautiful? And if you weren’t previously familiar with Whitman’s work, did the references confuse or distract you?
- “When any of the girls–including Rose–had come into view, he’d always give them the same welcome, calling out, hello beautiful!”
Why do you think the author chose to use Charlie’s signature greeting as the title of the book?
- There are a lot of colorful characters in this story. Who is your favorite character in this book? Who did you most identify with? Why?
- Napolitano has said that she tried to make the four sisters both similar and yet distinct from one another to show how a huge family of different personalities operates a single unit. Which of the two sisters are the most similar? Which two are the most different?
- How did the ending make you feel? Did it provide a sense of closure or leave you wondering more? What do you think might come next for William and Alice?
Selected Reviews for Hello Beautiful
(Use these selected Goodreads reviews to compare with your own experience of the book. Do you agree or disagree with the reviews?)
“I read it for the link to Little Women, which worked up to a point, but this is just a mediocre book that surprisingly makes some uninspired choices regarding the relationship between two sisters and the same man. Another weak point is that the author tries to cover too many topics. I find that she only managed to say something significant about mental health. Unfortunately, she moved on to the next theme just when it was becoming more interesting.”
“A beautifully written, character-driven novel that circles around a basketball player, William, whose life is subsumed by an early childhood trauma. Gradually the reader is introduced to William’s first girlfriend, Julia Padavano, and her three younger sisters. Napolitano paints a detailed picture of the entanglements and complexities of life as young people try to figure out their identities and struggle with love, self-actualization, and ultimately forgiveness.”
“Napolitano writes a extraordinarily moving and gripping family drama, creating a captivating and distinct set of Padavano sisters, all strong in their different ways, but challenged when cracks begin to appear in their unity. As for William, I felt my heart truly feel for him, a past responsible for the mental health issues he must face and find the inner strength to learn to put himself back together in a manner that is true to who he is, and despite the obstacles, learn to accept real love into his life.”
“This book is filled with odd, one-dimensional characters that did some odd things and I didn’t like most of them. Four too close for comfort sisters and one shadow of a man round out the main cast here. William might as well have been a ghost throughout most of the story, then that thing happened. Two of the sisters slept entwined in each others arms on more than one occasion, then that thing happened.”
3 Books Like Hello Beautiful
If you are keen to read more messy family dramas for book club, check out the following: Malibu Rising discussion guide, Little Fires Everywhere discussion guide, A Woman is No Man discussion guide or Nothing to See Here discussion guide.
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane
This is a story about the trials and tribulations of two neighboring families in a New York suburb and their two rookie cop sons. The author uses third person narrative to display the thoughts and feelings of many characters. A multigenerational portrait of love that features families, friendships, and the test of loyalties between them over a thirty year span.
The Spring Girls: A Modern-Day Retelling of Little Women, Anna Todd
In this twenty-first century rendition of Little Women, four sisters live on a military base in New Orleans with their mother while their father is away serving the country overseas. This story is told in first person view points of each sister while painting a vivid picture of sisterhood and strong family bond with plenty of sass, romance, and drama.
Back of the Yard: A Great Depression Family Saga, Meg Lelvis
Set in the Great Depression of South Chicago, this book following the lives of the O’Leary family. Beth and her family are met with tragedy, shifting the whole family dynamic. After her mom is sent to an asylum, Beth is sent to live with relatives. From there, her whole life shifts. Beth wonders, can she escape her cursed family legacy?
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