Ann Napolitano has written a novel that is mesmerizing from the beginning. A reader who doesn’t have the time to read all day or can’t stay up all night probably shouldn’t start “Dear Edward” until that kind of time is available.
The author addresses what is certainly the worst fear for many, that of being in an airplane crash. In the novel, the passengers heading to California from New York aboard the fully occupied aircraft plunge 30,000 feet to their deaths over an unpopulated area in Colorado. One 12-year-old boy survives.
Edward is traveling with his parents and his older brother. They are on their way to a new home in Los Angeles. He survives because he’s lucky enough to be in the right location—in a window seat near the back of the plane.
Following a hospital stay, Edward moves back east to live with his mother’s sister, Lacey, and her husband, John. They are tasked with not only nurturing Edward through his numbness and trauma, but also with the gargantuan chore of protecting him from the public. It is months before the public and the news media tire of seeking information about someone they see as having been ‘“chosen.”
A neighbor girl Edward’s age becomes his anchor as he navigates his new life in a strange town, which includes attending a public school for the first time. His father had been his home-school teacher. Edward finds that academically he is several years ahead of his peers.
Napolitano leads us to up to the dreaded anticipation of the crash carefully by first telling the story of Edward’s acclimation to life without his family. She includes the stories of others on the plane whom Edward remembers encountering during the flight. They are Benjamin, a solider who served a stint in Iraq and is nursing life-changing wound; Florida, escaping an abusive husband but excited about starting her new life, and Crispin, an elderly, sick billionaire, wondering if his drive to succeed, which cost him the affection of his children, was worth it.
Edward reaches a crossroad that determines if his life will be one of constant grieving and despair or one of grace and charity. Surprising connections to the people he remembers from his brief interactions with them provide Edward with the impetus he needs to develop a purpose in his life.
The author writes that she decided to compose “Dear Edward” after reading about a Dutch child who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in 2010. She incorporates a true recording of another plane crash, that of Air France Flight 447, which lends authority to the details of the crash in the novel.
“Dear Edward” has been selected for Book-of-the Month and Book Club picks, and is the featured January Read on the “Today Show.” This book is a must-read for early 2020.