Ann Napolitano’s last novel, “Dear Edward,” was chosen as a Read With Jenna pick in 2020. Jenna told TODAY she chose the tear-jerker because “it is a book about love and loss and finding your way after the unthinkable.” The novel follows the 12-year-old sole survivor of an airplane crash, which kills his entire immediate family.
Napolitano said her next book, “Hello Beautiful,” out in 2023, shares some thematic DNA with “Dear Edward.” This time, she’s interested in William Waters, a college basketball player with a tragic past who finds warmth and acceptance in the family he marries into.
“There are emotional notes of ‘Dear Edward’ in this novel: grief, kindness, the resiliency of the human spirit, our deep human need for connection. In ‘Dear Edward,’ a young Edward stepped out of a physical wreckage, and in ‘Hello Beautiful,’ a young William steps out of an emotional one. It’s ultimately a story about the beauty and the cost of love,” Napolitano told TODAY.
Napolitano began writing “Hello Beautiful” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While not about the pandemic, Napolitano said the book is a response to it nevertheless.
“Part of the reason I write is to make sense of myself and the world, and that felt necessary: we were housebound because of COVID, I was trying to make my two sons feel safe even though I didn’t, and my father had just died. I was grateful to find some comfort, and even glimmers of hope, inside the fictional world that became ‘Hello Beautiful,’ “she said.
William grows up in a house “silenced by tragedy.” Julia Padavano, the woman he’ll go on to marry, is from a raucous household. The oldest of four girls, Julia and her sisters are inseparable, and accept him into the fold.
“I began to feel, while writing, that I could heal both myself and William if I kept those vibrant sisters — Julia, Sylvie, Cecelia and Emeline — in my sightline,” she said.
See an exclusive cover reveal below.
Upon seeing the cover, Napolitano felt it was in conversation with the novel. “ One of the sisters in the novel paints murals of women’s faces, so this cover felt perfect and meaningful to the story of Hello Beautiful,” she said.
If this sounds slightly “Little Women-esque” to you, then that’s the point. The book is a subtle, modern-day homage to “Little Women.”
“When the four Padavano sisters stepped into the story — each of them strong-willed and loving but so different from one another — I realized they were the heartbeat that would shape the rest of the novel. They became my homage to the fictional sisters I loved so much growing up: the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women,” she said.
But it’s also an ode to Napolitano’s own life. Napolitano also lost her father in 2020. Missing him, she decided to imbue his best qualities into Charlie, the girls’ father.
“He always greets his four daughters with the words hello beautiful, and the warmth and sincerity of this greeting pulls each girl’s specific, inner beauty to the surface. I came to appreciate, along with the characters in the book, the remarkable power of Charlie’s love and attention,” she said.
The title is an homage to Charlie, too. He always greets his daughters with the words, "Hello beautiful." As Napolitano wrote in a letter to the reader, "The warmth and sincerity of this greeting pulls each girl’s specific, inner beauty to the surface."
As for what happens in the book? The official description teases the action: "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?"
Find out when "Hello Beautiful" comes out on March 13, 2023.