For many authors, being named as the choice for Oprah’s Book Club is akin to winning an Oscar — a validation, a burst of authorial stardust in a literary career. Since 1996, Oprah has been choosing books for her book club. Many more celebrity book clubs have come since then, but Oprah’s was the first. And for many, it is still the most important.
Recently she chose the 100th book for her book club, a choice which weighed on her, felt important. Reports say she set many books on her scale, found them all wanting. Richard Lovett, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency mentioned the co-head of his book department had something she thought Oprah would be interested in. He apparently sighed and said send it over.
It was Ann Napolitano’s “Hello Beautiful.”
Curled in front of a fire, cuddled with her dog, Oprah was barely into the book when she had her epiphany: This was the book for her 100th choice.
Oprah called Ann, who, at that moment, was carrying out her garbage. So afraid she’d lose her connection with Oprah, she stood for the whole 27 minutes of the call in the vestibule of her Park Slope apartment building, garbage in hand, learning she was being chosen as the 100th choice of Oprah’s Book Club, peppered with questions about her process, while still assimilating that she’d been chosen — and that she was really talking with Oprah Winfrey.
Ann Napolitano achieved, after much rejection, some success with “Dear Edward,” a novel out a few years ago. It allowed her to buy a new bed, as she’d been sleeping on one from her parents’ home.
“Hello Beautiful” is her homage to “Little Women,” a story of four sisters, secrets, love, struggles, bonds, more love, the complications of being human and related and wanting so much from life.
It is a pandemic book, begun in April of 2020, a dark month we all remember and would like to forget, a book born out of the need to live, to connect, as we are seeing in so many books coming out of that time. Writing the book anchored Ann Napolitano at a time when we were all looking for anchors in a world set adrift.
This one manages it quite incandescently; singing out of one writer’s need to find life in the darkness of COVID, a story driven by a need to be alive in a time when so many of us wondered if we would survive.
Bravo to Ann Napolitano! She has persevered to find success as an author after so many rejections, finally getting the appreciation and acclaim she deserves, a writer who catches us up in her understanding of the complexity of our humanity.
And bravo to Oprah for having appreciated Napolitano’s words, her story, her work.
Mathew Tombers is the manager of Edgartown Books.