Penguin Viking 27th February 2020
One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 192 people 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, twelve-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 to 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 his 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?
This was a moving story told in 2 distinct time frames – Edward’s life after the crash and also the duration of the flight. Post accident, Edward works to rebuild his life living with his Aunt and Uncle, as the only survivor of the flight, awarded a Messiah like status by others; special to have survived and in addition to grieving he has to deal with new found fame and attention.
The flight is told in time slots and the reader becomes familiar with some of the passengers and their lives, knowing they are going to die. With a cast of colourful characters on the flight their stories are both interesting and entertaining. However as the plane gets into difficulty and the circumstances of the crash play out, it does not make easy reading. Later Edward’s recovery and the flight passengers link up as he and Shay read the letters from the passengers relatives, as part of a process of Edward’s healing, aspects of this are incredibly touching.
This was an interesting book to read and I liked both parts of the story, it’s told in the third person narrative and this has the effect of creating some distance between the reader and Edward – potentially making the story less sad and told in a more matter of fact manner. That said this story is heart breaking and while Edward’s story was very readable the letters were incredibly sad. It is a story best appreciated at its end and I finished the book with wet eyes, subdued that it was over.
Publishing on 27th February, do look out for this book, it is a different but wonderful read accompanying Edward through a horrific event and his subsequent recovery with some real heart warming moments and an emphasis on the power of relationships to heal.
About the Author
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 programme, 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.