It was last September at a Penguin blogger event (that you can read about here) that I first got my hands on a copy of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano and I’ve been desperate to share my review ever since.
It has been my absolute pleasure to meet Dear Edward‘s author Ann Napolitano last week at Penguin’s headquarters and I would like to thank Hannah Sawyer both for my invitation to that event and to participating in this blog tour.
Ann was a fascinating interviewee, telling us that it took eight years to write Dear Edward and that it was inspired by real events. She described how she loved writing the book and experienced a ‘stickiness of obsession’ in the process, spending a year plotting and researching before the real writing began. Ann told us that the first 150 words probably took around 5 years to get absolutely right as she felt the novel, like a house, needed to be built on a strong foundation.
Although Dear Edward explores grief, it was inspiring to hear how Ann feels that when something terrible happens we step forward and show kindness. She believes that we all need love and that taking care of others makes us feel better too. I agree Ann!
Dear Edward was published on 20th February 2020 by Penguin imprint Viking and is available for purchase through the links here.
One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 216 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.
Dear Edward depicts Edward’s life in the crash’s aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle’s garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.
As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life’s most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?
My Review of Dear Edward
Being the sole survivor in a plane crash isn’t easy for Edward.
When I first began reading Dear Edward, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I hadn’t expected the book’s structure, thinking it would just be about the aftermath of the crash, and I needed to readjust my expectations. However, it wasn’t long before I was entirely engrossed in the events on the plane and Edward’s post crash life to the extent that I simply couldn’t stop reading and thought about the book when I wasn’t actually reading it. From being unsure if I’d like it I ended up loving Dear Edward. In fact I was so immersed in the story that it wasn’t until I’d finished reading that the relevance of the title hit me, even though it is clear in the writing. You’ll need to read the book to see what I mean!
I found the characters on the plane very affecting. Ann Napolitano has managed to create a fascinating microcosm of society with her people in Dear Edward from a baby yet to be born to an old man at the end of life, regardless of the crash. There’s consideration those characters’ sexuality, lives and relationships, and of so many human emotions such as fear, love, envy, avarice, frustration and joy that all life is here even as the people on the plane crash to their deaths. I found this very moving.
Ann Napolitano’s writing is beautifully adept. The dialogue in particular is sparse and yet conveys meaning with razor sharp clarity. The way the Ann Napolitano outlines the technical aspects of the crash so skilfully that they are a smooth, natural element of the narrative is exemplary – although I confess she has unnerved me rather when it comes to flying! As the plot structure balances between the plane and times after the crash it echoes the way Edward is at a pivotal stage in his life. He can move on or he can crumble completely and the exploration of this balance is totally compelling.
Indeed, it is Edward himself who makes this narrative such a triumph. He captures the reader’s heart on so many levels because he epitomises grief and humanity in his persona. I found his physical and emotional development completely spellbinding. His inertia, and his inability to sleep and eat, are pitch perfect examples of his grief and loss so that I understood completely what he was going through and lived it with him. Whilst Dear Edward should feel depressing because of the subject, 191 people dying in a plane crash, Edward gives it a both depth and a simultaneous lightness that makes it glorious and incredibly inspiring.
The essential message of Dear Edward is that life is for the living. It is what we make it and if we can be kind, do a little good and spread a little happiness along the way so much the better. I can’t argue with that. Ann Napolitano captures these sentiments perfectly without saccharine mawkishness, but with humour, emotion and humanity. I really recommend Dear Edward.
About Ann Napolitano
Ann Napolitano is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach. She is also the Assistant Editor of One Story literary magazine. She received an MFA from New York University; she has taught fiction writing for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and for Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
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