I bought this book soon after Oprah announced it for her 100th pick and one right in. The big loving family and the Padavano sisters attracted me to the story as I come from a big family (bigger) and have three sisters and one brother. I've often wondered about the people who meet and/or join our family, especially if they're parent's only child, or have one or two siblings. I've seen the look on their faces when they've attended a Thanksgiving or Christmas or significant birthday party, and it's usually an expression of shock (that their host or date has a huge extended family, "You didn't mention your family is so..."), intimidation (Who should I talk to first?), or wonder ("Wow!"). Or they have the kind of personality that thrives on large groups of people and dives right in.
This is not William Waters of "Hello, Beautiful."
William has a troubled spirit. Being born when his sister dies, William's parents withheld their love for him. Basketball is his saviour and having the height, he plays in college. Here, he meets Julia Padavano and enters the world of the Padavano family in a leech-like manner. He participates in a way he thinks he's expected to or how Julia wants him to. Readers will quickly realize that William is courting disaster. Why? He's an imposter to himself.
Ann Napolitano writes in a way to invite the reader into this large family. We pick favourites without knowing we do. I recently heard a Napolitano interview on the Writers on Writing podcast where she said her fav was Silvia. This surprised me because this character was my least favourite (my fav was Alice for those who care to know). It was because of Silvia, I didn't give the book 5 stars. I can't even pinpoint why I don't care for her. It's not because of the men she snogs with and the one she falls for, or that she's even a good or bad sister. I cared for what happened to the other sisters more than I cared for Silvia. As she occupies a large chunk of the book (the chunk where I put the book down several times), it affected my score, but four stars is a great score.
What Napolitano does beautifully is she gives her several characters full personalities that differ from each other, no easy thing to write. We meet and begin to care for these people and think about them when we're not reading the book. That poor William! That feisty Julia! That cold Rose. I reflected on my own wonderful family, blessedly not quite so dramatic. The author also wrote accurately about the basketball world (I've spent a lot of time in gyms with my daughters and watched enough NBA games to know). And as it's Mental Health Awareness Month, I should remark that Ann Napolitano writes beautifully about depression. You'll enjoy the full cast, the sister's love, and the situations that derail a family's cohesiveness. ⭐⭐⭐⭐