Book Review: Dear Edward

Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival–riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery–one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.

Let me just say that this is NOT the kind of book that you’ll find yourself reading during a flight.

“Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano is a coming-of-age novel about Edward, a twelve-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 191 passengers on board including his parents and brother. As the story unfolds, we get a perspective on the meteoric changes in Edward’s life as he was suddenly placed under the care of his childless aunt and her husband to deal with the tragedy’s aftermath.

Merging alternating timelines is probably the best writing structure to hook the readers to the story. Switching off timelines from Edward’s journey–his struggles to contemplating life anew without his parents to the events leading up to the plane crash allowed a gradual suspension of disbelief and tension. This was skillfully accomplished by the author’s insertion of some of the passengers’ individual experiences, thoughts, faults, apprehensions, and plans for the unforeseeable future into Edward’s narrative.  It is a heartbreaking read all throughout as we would all know what would happen eventually despite what we have come to know of the passengers’ proclivity for a renewed life. It presents life’s ultimate irony: that death is life’s ultimatum.

At times too upsetting to read, yet it also filled me with a reaffirmed sense to value life by changing my course of plans. The compelling truth about fiction is how closely it resembles reality and that the power of storytelling reveals in us the ugly truth of how spontaneous choices could alter not just our lives but of others as well. The narrative’s message is clear: life is short and death is uncertain and what follows is how we choose to deal with it.  

“Dear Edward” has awakened parts of me I thought were already dead: the passion for life, and the need to live for selfless reasons. Napolitano has written a narrative portrait of loss and grief and the strength to overcome the struggles that came with dealing with death. The heavy burden that Edward had to shoulder was not just attributed to the loss of his own family but having to carry the torch that was asked of him by those who were left behind.  How can one boy deal with the burden of having survived a tragedy while others perished?  How can he face life knowing that in exchange for his existence were the deaths of so many?  How can he possibly comply with the demands of the surviving families who wanted him to live the lives of those who died?  What is to become of him now that everyone is watching? These are questions that “Dear Edward” will answer from the perspective of a young boy who knew so little yet had to swallow a big chunk of life’s adversities. Edward’s narrative is one that stings but repairs; breaks but mends. It allows the readers a first-hand experience of life at the clutches of death that is both real and surreal.  One will surely end the book’s final chapter with sentimental tears, a substantial smile, and a pronounced but profound understanding of life. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Ann Napolitano

Genre: Coming of Age Fiction / Literary Fiction / Family Life Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: The Dial Press (January 6, 2020)

ISBN-10: 198485478X

ISBN-13: 978-1984854780

One thought on “Book Review: Dear Edward

  1. I’ve heard mention of this book here and there but this sounds like an incredible read! I can’t even fathom being in a position like that… I’m very intrigued to see how things unfold and what happens next. Wonderful review!


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