Always on the lookout for something different, something that will awaken emotions in our hearts and minds, something that will impact us, Jan and I decided to read Dear Edward. It was a book that touched us in so many ways.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggling, known loss, and have found their way out of these depths. (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)
It’s been a long time since I read a book where the story and the characters took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. Anyone who has followed my reviews for any amount of time knows that I don’t typically like child narrators. This is the exception. It’s a stunning piece of storytelling. I love a story that delves into psychological issues, and how one heals from unbearable tragedy is the ultimate psychological challenge. I had the pleasure of buddy reading this with my good friend Marialyce, and it’s a book we both loved and tore through in record time.
Edward, his brother, and his parents board a plane to start a new life in California. They don’t make it, as the plane crashes midflight. 191 die while Edward is miraculously the only survivor.
Edward’s emotional struggles with the loss of his beloved family, the burden of survivor’s guilt, as well as his sudden notoriety as the “miracle boy”, is dealt with in such a compassionate and authentic way that I wondered more than once as I read if the author has experience with grief. She knows you never get over a loss, and there is no timeline or “closure”. But there is life after loss, although it’s a different life.
After Edward heals from his physical injuries he goes to live with his aunt and uncle, and does the hard work of learning how to live again. How do you move forward when you’ve lost everything, including yourself, the person you were before the loss? He befriends Shay, the 12 year old girl next door, and it is one of the most delightful friendships I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
All of the adults in Edward’s life, from his aunt and uncle, to the school personnel, and his therapist have a part to play in his recovery and all were incredibly knowledgeable and insightful, even when dealing with their own struggles. They were all terrific characters that felt realistic. But Edward still struggles until he makes a discovery that, along with Shay’s help, serves as the catalyst for his healing.
The story alternates between Edward’s chapters and chapters that highlights the other passengers on the flight, from the quirky to the serious. Learning their backstories put the losses into perspective but thankfully the author doesn’t manipulate the reader into an emotional response. They simply add interest and depth to the story.
This sounds unbearably sad but it is a beautiful, heartfelt story that is never maudlin or manipulative. The ending brought tears through my smiles. This is a book that is ultimately hopeful, a story that restores faith in the human spirit, and one that will stay with me a long time to come. Highly recommended!
· I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
“And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again” (Bee Gees)
Tragedy and death has confronted all of us. There has been loss in our lives be it a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, family, or friends. It touches everyone, but perhaps never as much as it touches a person who has been left alive after all others have perished. Why me? Why am I still here?
“I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow, no one said a word about the sorrow” (Bee Gees)
Young Edward, his family and one hundred eighty three others, board a plane thinking to arrive at their destination hours later. No one thought of not getting to their destination, never seeing those they cared for again, of having their life end in tragedy and a fiery crash. However, Edward knows. He knows that he is the only survivor, the only one left of these many souls, the only one left to carry within him the nightmare of what he went through and how his life was irreversibly changed.
After recovering from his wounds, Edward goes to live with his aunt and uncle, a kindly couple who themselves are suffering the loss of a sister and the loss of the dream of having their own child. Edward meets and forms a strong attachment to the girl across the street, Shay, who offers him hard won comfort and seems to be exactly the person he needs. There are also other wonderful characters. The principal of Edward’s school, whose love for plants nurtures Edward as well, allowing Edward to grow while giving him solace and a sense of peace in the ferns he keeps. There is Dr Mike, who so understands how to draw Edward out, how to allay his guilt, how to make him know that he has the ability to heal and only needs to discover the way to find that road to inner peace.
And then there are the letters, written to Edward from the families of survivors, the people who know loss, the people who want him to go forward almost as if Edward is living their loved one’s lives for them.
Sadness and melancholy pervade this story and certainly we understand why. Though sadness often does lead to times of happiness, times when you begin to understand yourself, and times that make for a way ahead that is filled with promise. This is what Edward needs to know and strives to learn.
This wonderful story, loosely based on a real event, will have you realizing what many of us know, that the joy and love of family can sustain you through the worst that life can dole out. Edward, only thirteen at the time, will progress down a road filled with thorns and brambles to come to a road that, while not always filled with sunshine, will always offer days that are.
“Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again” (Bee Gees)
I most heartily recommend this story as Ms Napolitano has given us a detailed look at loss, survivor guilt, and grief. The depth of this story is truly amazing. We all have been there. We all know what it’s like to lose someone, we all know a portion of what Edward feels. We all are on his side wishing life’s very best for a young man who has experienced ultimate loss.
Thank you to Ann Napolitano, Random House and NetGalley for a copy of this beautiful story.