Published by Dial Press on January 6, 2020
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?
Well, I certainly selected a whopper for my first read of 2020. I’m not sure if there will be any coming back from the book hangover this one is going to induce, but it was worth every heart-wrenching second.
Applicable PopSugar 2020 Prompts: A book that’s published in 2020, a bildungsroman, a book with a bird on the cover
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Dear Edward is the story of a twelve year old boy who finds himself the sole survivor of a devastating trans-continental plane crash. This is on the book flap, it’s on the summary, it’s everywhere – it’s the crux of the book, and you can’t miss it. Then tell me why, exactly, it hurt like hell when I got to the part over 300 pages in where the plane finally crashed, my heart onboard with it?
We flip from past to present in Napolitano’s narrative – some chapters are headlined by a time, a pin in the map of the plane’s flight across the sky. We snap in and out of the heads of several passengers, who are fleeing from or escaping to all sorts of things. The high-powered executive, the young man honorably discharged from the military, the crotchety old man with more money than he knows what to do with, the free-spirit and the young lady who just found out she is pregnant and is moving in with her long distance boyfriend. And more importantly, to our story, there is Edward, his brother Jordan, and his parents.
The rest of our time is spent in Edward’s present day, though it flips through a handful of years until 2019. We see Edward’s recovery from the wreckage – he is unceremoniously sent to live with his mother’s sister, Lacey, and her husband John – they have been trying and failing to conceive for years now, and it’s really put a strain on their relationship. Edward feels like a wedge between them, and finds himself spending time with their next door neighbor, a young single mother named Besa, and her daughter who is Edward’s age – Shay. Shay is everything you could want in a protagonist – she is sweet, cunning, snarky and smart. She takes no shit. She immediately tells Edward she thinks he’s been given magical powers like Harry Potter, and I instantaneously loved her. Shay for president 2036 (the first year she’s eligible, at age 35).
This is a heart-crushing, thought provoking walk through daily life with PTSD – something I have, though not nearly at this scale. Regardless, I felt Edward’s nervous energy, his desire to change things that can never be changed, to turn back the hands of time in a way that will never happen. We see Edward grow from a gangly, awkward and sickly twelve year old to a young man who is eighteen, on the cusp of so much. His relationships with his aunt and uncle, his best friend Shay, and even the school principal and his therapist are outlined in rich color. Nobody feels like a flat caricature of themselves.
And damn it, I cried. (I don’t cry at books).
The Bottom Line
You can’t help but want to hug everyone in this story, even the people who aren’t unlikable. This is the crux of Napolitano’s talent – you’re there in the sky with these people, but you’re also on the ground with Edward. You are everywhere at once, and it hurts your soul but in a way that also stitches it back together. Edward’s story is an unflinching, pitch-perfect portrayal of PTSD survival, found family and the milk of human kindness all melted a hard candy that you roll around on your tongue to appreciate the subtle flavors. If you remember old, “classic” Jodi Picoult novels, this is it – multiple POV, gut-wrenching reflections on life. I couldn’t have asked for more.
This is a great read for the beginning of the year – it is a book to remind you to hold those that you love close, that you can’t take it with you and we’re never promised tomorrow or even the next minute. Love fiercely, love deeply and earnestly. I will carry Edward’s story close to my heart all year long, and hope that you choose to do the same when Dear Edward releases on January 6th, if you didn’t already pick it up in your December Book of the Month box.
“What happened is baked into your bones, Edward. It lives under your skin. It’s not going away. It’s part of you and will be part of you every moment until you die. What you’ve been working on, since the first time I met you, is learning to live with that.”