I’ll admit it; I don’t always trust planes. But I enjoy traveling, so I generally try to avoid reading books that involve a plane crash. But, since 2020 has canceled all my travel plans, I figured now was the time to read one. I have read a couple of books involving plane crashes this year, and this one really tugs at the heart strings.

The Alder family was starting a new chapter in their lives when they boarded a flight from Newark to Los Angeles. Jane Adler, the mom, got a new job and the family was relocating to support her career. As they boarded the plane, the family separated—Jane to first class, where she needed to finish a project on the way, and Bruce, the dad, along with Jordan and Edward, their two boys, to coach.  When the plane starting hitting a lot of turbulence, everyone stayed mostly calm… until the plane went down. One hundred eighty-six passengers died in the crash. All except Edward.

After the crash, Edward went to live with his aunt and uncle, who had been going through some issues of their own. Edward was unmoored. He had difficulty sleeping and often wandered over to the neighbor’s house where he had befriended a girl named Shay and slept on the floor of her room. His aunt and uncle protected him as much as they could, but people in the neighborhood knew what had happened to him, and he was talked about constantly in the media.

Edward needed to learn how to navigate his new life without his family, without the life he knew, and he was unsure of his place in this new life. Despite his survival, and the fact that his feet were literally firmly on the ground, he felt like part of him was still in the plane with his family. When Edward and Shay discover a secret his uncle had been hiding from him, Edward must face what happened to him and come to terms with what losing his family means for the rest of his life.

Though the main character and main perspective in this story is Edward’s, this story also visits the perspective of other people who were on the flight. We learn about the pregnant woman who was heading to California to be with her boyfriend, hoping for a happy ending. We learn about the former soldier looking for acceptance. We learn about the businessman who still loved his ex-wife despite his many relationships since their divorce. And, we learn about the people left behind and what they do to try to heal.

Author Ann Napolitano got the idea for this novel after seeing a story about a nine-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in 2010. She wondered how a child could go on from that and lead a normal life. While the author has stated she was not going for a specific message in this book and wanted to leave it up to the reader, it’s interesting to note that interpretations have already been made. Many countries have changed the title to the book in their translations. I think Italy says it best with their interpretation of the book title, Don’t Waste Time, Don’t Waste Love.

Napolitano received an MFA from New York University and has taught fiction writing for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, New York University’s School of Continuing Education and Professional Studies, and for the Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

If you enjoyed Dear Edward, you may also enjoy:

  • The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
  • Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
  • Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg