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What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?
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 are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. 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 in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself 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 the strength to put one foot in front of the other? How do you learn to feel safe again? How do you find meaning in your life?
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.
1. In what ways can reading a tragic book actually help us find joy in our daily lives?
2. Have you experienced other books, movies, or TV shows that have broken your heart, but left you with a feeling of hope? What characteristics do these stories have in common?
3. Did Dear Edward influence the way you respond to emotional stories in the news? Do you think we have a responsibility to remember the people affected by these stories and continue to help them long after they’ve disappeared from the headlines?
4. Do you normally interact with people around you on a flight? After reading this book, do you think your perception of your fellow passengers will change?
5. How did you feel reading this book knowing that everyone on the plane was going to die except for Edward? How did the plane chapters and the Edward chapters feel different from each other?
6. Before the hearing in Washington, D.C., Shay tells Edward no one there can hurt him, and in fact, no one can hurt him ever again, because he has already lost everything. Did this ring true to you? Does this notion comfort Edward in any way? Would it comfort you?
7. Louisa Cox tells Edward the tragedy and its aftermath would have been much easier for him if he hated his family. Do you agree with this? In what ways can love make life harder? In what ways can love make life easier?
8. Edward has to make decisions about when to face things, like whether or not to go to the memorial or the hearing. Where is the line between shielding yourself from things for your own protection and facing them so that you can move on?
9. After the hearing, Edward tells his uncle he doesn’t want to know why the plane crashed. Why do you think this is? Would you want to know?
10. Many of the other passengers on the plane learn about themselves over the course of the flight. Who do you think changes the most in the air? Who do you think changes the least?
11. Which of the characters on the plane, other than Edward, did you identify with the most? Why?
12. For months after the crash, Edward can only sleep at Shay’s house. Why is this? How and why does Shay become an immediate source of comfort for him in the aftermath?
13. What do you think made people all over the country write letters to Edward? Do you think they wanted a response? What did they really want from him?
14. Was it fair for adults and children alike to write letters to Edward, who was just a child?
15. Do you think John and Lacey were right to keep all the letters from Edward? How do you determine when someone is ready to bear such a huge emotional weight?
16. In the end, Edward decides to use the millions of dollars he received to help other people, but he wants his donations to be anonymous. Why do you think he doesn’t want his name to be connected with them? Do you agree with his decision to remain anonymous?
17. Towards the end of the book, we learn that the plane crashed due to a preventable human error. How did you react to this news? Did it change the weight of the tragedy at all? How should we feel about the fact that the crash was actually somebody’s fault?
18. What moment from the book will stick with you the longest?
Book Club Kit includes:
A LETTER FROM ANN NAPOLITANO
A Q&A WITH ANN NAPOLITANO
SELF-CARE AND HEALING
RECIPE: VEGAN CALIFORNIA NACHOS
In the novel, letters and letter-writing are a great source of healing and reflection. Use this custom DEAR EDWARD stationary to write a letter of your own.
Ann Napolitano’s new novel, Dear Edward, was published by Dial Press in January 2020 and was an instant New York Times bestseller. She is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach. She was the Associate Editor of One Story literary magazine from 2014-2020. She received an MFA from New York University; she has taught fiction writing for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and for Gotham Writers’ Workshop. In November 2019, Ann was long-listed for the Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize.
Dear Edward has been published by Dial Press in the United States, and by Viking Penguin in the United Kingdom. The novel currently has twenty-seven international publishers. It was named one of the best books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Real Simple, Fast Company, Women’s World, Parade, LibraryReads and Amazon.
A Good Hard Look was published in the United States by Penguin Press. The novel appeared on the Southern Independent bestseller list, on one of NPR’s Best of 2011 lists, and was also an Indie Next Pick and an Okra Pick.
Her first novel, Within Arm’s Reach, was published in the United States by Crown Publishing, in the United Kingdom by Time Warner Books/Virago, in Spain by Ediciones Salamandra, and in Germany by Verlagsgruppe Droemer Weltbild. The novel was adapted and staged as a theatrical production in New York City in 2014.
Ann lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
Photo by Jake Chessum