IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ann Napolitano’s first novel was out of print. Readers demanded it come back

After the success of "Dear Edward" and "Hello Beautiful," Napolitano's first book, "Within Arm's Reach," is getting a new look and lease on literary life.
Getty Images

Two celebrity book club selections later, and Ann Napolitano is one of the most prominent voices in fiction today.

Her 2020 novel "Dear Edward" was chosen as a Read With Jenna pick; her subsequent book, "Hello Beautiful," was an Oprah's Book Club selection for 2023. Napolitano is also the author of the 2011 novel "A Good Hard Look."

Now, 20 years after it was published, Napolitano's first novel "Within Arm's Reach" is being re-issued with a brand-new cover. Speaking to, Napolitano says the book was brought back into print following reader demand.

"Over the last few years I’ve heard from many readers about how difficult it was to find a copy of it anywhere, and so my current publisher, The Dial Press, said they wanted to reissue the novel," Napolitano says.

Facing the republishing of her first novel, Napolitano says she feels "honestly, a little nervous," but excited, too.

"I wrote it what feels like a lifetime ago. I remember that while I was writing the novel, I was convinced that it would never be published. I’d already written two other failed books in my twenties, so I had little reason to think this time would be different. 'Within Arm’s Reach' exists only because in the face of failure, I’d learned how deeply I loved writing, and how essential the practice is to who I am," she says.

She recently re-read the book for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised to read the writing of her 29-year-old self. "For the first 50 pages or so, I read with what felt like one eye squeezed shut. But as I kept reading, surrounded by these characters I had imagined so long ago, I began to remember and reinhabit the story. I loved these people — Gracie, Lila, Catharine, Noreen — a long time ago, and now I love them again," she says.

"Within Arm's Reach" is a polyphonic novel, switching between members of a large Catholic family as they grapple with Gracie's unplanned pregnancy.

Readers will find similarity between “Within Arm’s Reach” and her other novels, Napolitano says, especially “Hello Beautiful.”

"Both contain stories from the family I grew up in; both are about families struggling to love one another. The grandmother in the novel, Catharine, is based on my own petite, steely grandmother, and the two sisters in the book, Gracie and Lila, are struggling in a way many of us do in our late 20s, when we’re not sure we’ll ever figure out how to shape our own adulthoods," she says.

As an echo to her personal connection to the book, the new cover is based on her childhood home, Dial Press confirms.

"The characters in 'Within Arm’s Reach' are each wrestling with their own heartbreak and deep desires, trying to make it seem like they’re fine on the surface, while coming to see how intimately and inextricably their individual story is connected to those of everyone else in their family," she continues.

 The moment is a reflection for Napolitano, who says she is "proud" of her younger self for writing this book.

"I had so little belief in myself when I wrote it, that it feels miraculous and brave that I summoned this story and put it down on the page. I’d like to give my 29-year-old self, who was terribly worried she would never be a published writer, a big hug," she says. 

She hopes this book does what the rest of her novels do: Provide a glimpse of "emotional truth."

"In my fiction, I search for emotional truth. I want to unlock my characters’ secrets, their hidden, fractured beauty, in the hope that I can set them free. I write to find moments of freedom and connection for them and for myself, and I hope my books, starting with this one, give the reader moments of freedom and connection too," she says.