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, halfway across the country, 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 you 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.
I never thought I would write a novel about a plane crash. I’m a nervous flyer, and fictionally I’ve always gravitated more toward family drama than novels filled with crashes and explosions. But in 2010, I became obsessed with a news story about a nine-year-old Dutch boy who was the sole survivor of the crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771. I couldn’t stop thinking about this child who lost everything—his parents, his brother, his entire world—in one sweeping moment. My own sons were one and three years old at the time, and I needed to believe that if they ever had to endure such a loss, they would somehow be able to go on. I wanted to think that they could go to school, make new friends, fall in love. That need to believe in a path forward after unimaginable tragedy drove me to write one for my fictional Edward.
When I started writing, I realized that Edward’s story couldn’t include just what happened to him after the crash; it also had to describe what happened in the air. The plane journey was integral to Edward, and those hours in the sky would forever remain as real to him as his new life. I decided to set the plane chapters side-by-side with those depicting the years that followed. That meant writing in detail about the crash itself. It was important to me to portray those scenes accurately, so I did extensive research to understand the factors involved in a crash: I spoke to a retired pilot, studied National Transportation Safety Board reports, and read real black box transcripts. The mechanics of what happens to the fictional flight in Dear Edward are based largely on a real crash, that of Air France Flight 447, about which I found the work of journalist Jeff Wise to be vital. (I’m grateful to Jeff and to Hearst for giving me permission to incorporate his reporting into my novel.) And some of the cockpit dialogue in Dear Edward is drawn from the true black box recording of Flight 447.
My intention was to accurately and respectfully portray the human experience of such an event, both what happens in the moment and what follows for the people left behind. I hope I have honored the real people who have inspired my fictional work: Ruben van Assouw, Pierre-Cédric Bonin, Marc Dubois, David Robert, and all the passengers aboard Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 and Air France Flight 447. The more I learned about these flights, the more my compassion for the passengers, the crew, and their loved ones grew. I hope that compassion is reflected in the story of the fictional flight 2977.
I started writing Dear Edward in an effort to discover how someone—in this case, a young boy—can learn not just to survive, but to truly live. It took me eight years to write this story. In that time, I found that the empathy of others is essential in clearing a path through grief. I hope readers of Dear Edward discover similar wells of kindness in their own lives.
–Ann Napolitano, 2019
- Dear Edward chosen as the January 2020 Today Show #ReadwithJenna book club pick.
- The Barnes & Noble Book Club selected Dear Edward as their January 2020 book.
- Books-A-Million selected Dear Edward as their 2020 President’s Pick.
- Dear Edward chosen as a December 2019 Book of the Month.
- Dear Edward chosen as a January 2020 Indie Next Pick.
- Library Reads selected Dear Edward as their number one pick of January 2020 books.
- An Amazon Best Book of the Month for January 2020.
Praise for Dear Edward
“Napolitano’s fearless examination of what took place models a way forward for all of us. She takes care not to sensationalize, presenting even the most harrowing scenes in graceful, understated prose, and gives us a powerful book about living a meaningful life during the most difficult of times.”—New York Times
“Dear Edward is such an optimistic diversion that you might not even notice how important and finely made it is. Never soppy, the novel provides pitch-perfect understanding of human vulnerabilities. When you’re reading, you’re deep in the pleasure of good storytelling, but when you’re done, you know that you’ve experienced a brush with literary virtuosity.”—Newsday
“An insightful and moving testament to the indomitability of the human spirit.”—People Magazine
“Dear Edward sometimes feels like Judith Guest’s “Ordinary People” reimagined in pastel colors. Much of that sweetness stems from her portrayal of Edward, who is indeed dear, but it’s a strange girl named Shay who really leavens the novel. With Shay, Napolitano captures the authentic quirkiness of a precocious adolescent. “Shay feels like oxygen to him,” Napolitano writes. She provides exactly the atmosphere of clarity that this fractured boy needs to rebuild his life, and watching them do that together is one of the most touching stories you’re likely to read in the new year.”—The Washington Post
“With its expert pacing and picture-perfect final page, Dear Edward is a wondrous read. It is a skillful and satisfying examination of not only what it means to survive, but of what it means to truly live.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Stunning…. in this life affirming tale, the downright unbearable blossoms into a testament to the power of love and grace.”—Vogue
“It’s hard for a novel to thoroughly capture a reader’s attention while simultaneously meditating on profoundly complex issues. In Dear Edward, Napolitano manages to achieve this. The delicate sparseness of her prose slowly peels back the layers to reveal a warm, fulfilling center that is a true reward for readers.” —BookPage
“Dear Edward is that rare book that breaks your heart and stitches it back together during a reading experience that leaves you profoundly altered for the better. It’s about the infinitesimal difference between being a victim and being a survivor, between living and being alive. Don’t miss this one.”—Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
“Dear Edward isn’t just a beautiful novel, clear-eyed and compassionate even as it pulls us into such difficult terrain. It’s an examination of what makes us human, how we survive in this mysterious world, how we take care of each other. It’s the kind of book that forces you to trust that the author, who will break your heart, will also lead you toward something wondrous, something profound. After this brilliant novel, I will follow Ann Napolitano to the ends of the earth.”—Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang and Nothing to See Here
“Outstanding, beautifully written, a compulsive read. Dear Edward is the best book about a young person I’ve read since Emma Donoghue’s Room.”—John Boyne, bestselling author of A Ladder to the Sky and The Heart’s Invisible Furies
“Ann Napolitano’s writing is astonishing. I’m in awe.”—Marian Keyes, bestselling author of The Break and The Brightest Star in the Sky
“I loved Dear Edward so, so much. It made me laugh and weep. So many times I had to stop after reading a paragraph to acknowledge the beauty of Ann Napolitano’s writing. In Edward, his friend Shay, and the passengers on the airplane, Napolitano offers unforgettable characters, people you know you will miss after you’ve turned the book’s last page. Magnificent!”—Lily King, author of Euphoria
“From its breathtaking premise—a boy is the sole survivor of an airplane crash—to its absolutely rhapsodic finish, Dear Edward is about the persistence of hope, the depth of love, and the unexpected, radiant moments that make up our lives. If I loved this stunning novel any more, I’d have to marry it.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World
“A stunning novel of courage and connection in the face of unimaginable loss. Beautifully written, with characters so intensely alive you will hold your breath as they break your heart. An extraordinary read.”—Helen Simonson, author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
“Gripping and elegaic, this is a captivating novel about loss, love and growing up.”—Rosamund Lupton, bestselling author of Sister
“Weaving past and present into a profoundly beautiful, page-turning story of mystery, loss, and wonder, Dear Edward is a meditation on survival, but more important, it is about carving a life worth living. It is about love and hope and caring for others, and all the transitory moments that bind us together.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley and The Good Thief
“Eddie is an ordinary twelve-year-old, until a horrific plane crash turns him into the real-life Boy Who Lived. Ann Napolitano brings clear-eyed compassion to every character in Dear Edward, from Edward himself, caught between living and merely surviving, to his fellow passengers, who don’t have that choice. The result is a rich, big-hearted tapestry that leaves no one behind. Fans of Room and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will be spellbound by Dear Edward, which explores trauma with the same honesty and tenderness as it does the crooked path to healing.”—Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists
“From the first page of this heartwarming and heart-wrenching novel, I was dazzled. Napolitano weaves a story that brims with humanity—with joy and sorrow, love and friendship, survival and triumph, and a cast of unforgettable characters. Dear Edward is a masterpiece that should be at the top of everyone’s reading list.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, bestselling author of Saints for All Occasions