‘Dear Edward’ by Ann Napolitano. TNS
You know almost from the beginning of Ann Napolitano's Dear Edward that Edward — home-schooled brother of 15-year-old Jordan and small for his 12 years — is the sole survivor of an airplane crash on a Newark to Los Angeles flight that kills everyone else in his family, as well as a planeload of strangers.
The story of his life thereafter is the main thread of this nourishing and engrossing novel.
Edward, traumatised in body and soul, moves to New Jersey to live with his aunt and uncle, winding up next door to a girl his age named Shay who immediately becomes his best friend.
Shay is pretty certain that because he survived the crash, Edward has special powers. "You must be magic," she says, likening him to Harry Potter.
Why does one person survive and not another? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Edward is branded as someone anointed, with a destiny that will justify his luck.
Even in the hospital just after the crash, "So many eyes stare at Edward that the scene looks like a Picasso painting: hundreds of eyeballs, and then a smattering of limbs and hairstyles.
An old woman reaches out to touch his hand as he passes. 'God has blessed you.'"
Braided throughout Dear Edward are the stories of the other passengers on the plane, from the beginning of the flight until the moment of impact.
For a reader to develop such emotional connection to as many people as you do in this novel, to know their hearts and their flaws, is almost impossibly satisfying.
There's also the older hippie, certain she is embarked on only one of her many lives, who is leaving her husband; the elderly billionaire with a terrible illness; the never-satisfied business tycoon; the beautiful flight attendant; the wounded soldier heading home to his grandmother.
Napolitano's humanity and love of her characters renders each of these people whole and complex.
Napolitano explores the deepest question there is and provides a solid and satisfying answer.
Never soppy, the novel provides pitch-perfect understanding of human vulnerabilities.
Tribune News Service
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