A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano- Feature and Review


Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival--riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

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, tragically, 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 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.



Dear EdwardDear Edward by Ann Napolitano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is a 2020 Dial Press publication.

A sad, uncomfortable, and heartrending journey- but ultimately a story of hope and inspiration!

Twelve- year old, Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash, which took the lives of 191 people, including Edward’s parents and older brother. Now living with his aunt and uncle, Edward is faced with the daunting task of recovering physically, mentally and emotionally. This story follows Edward's coming of age journey, as he copes with the aftermath of the crash.

Along with his devoted family, Edward also finds an unexpected support system through his friendship with Shay, one his neighbors. The two become inseparable, when Shay offers Edward her unconditional support, honesty, and love. Their relationship defied convention at times, but Shay became Edward's rock on so many levels.

Edwards’s present -day journey is alternated with the stories of a select group of passengers who were on board the plane with Edward, giving the reader a bit of insight into their personal lives leading up to the flight, and how they co-mingled on the plane before the crash.

This book was inspired by true events and is understandably melancholy. The story is centered around grief, the way it affects people in different ways, and how they cope. How will Edward come out on the other side of something this traumatic?

Right from the beginning, I wanted to hug Edward and comfort him. What a resilient soul, so broken, but also brave and determined. If the story had stayed centered on Edward and the obstacles he and his family faced and how they worked through their grief and all the psychological pain of recovering under the glare of the media spotlight, I would have given the book all the stars and a rave review.

However, I have some mixed feelings about the airplane sequences. It was very uncomfortable to read about these people under those circumstances. I wondered if there might have been a different way to introduce them- perhaps telling their story as a prelude to the crash, before turning the spotlight over to Edward.

I felt it would only be right to give the reader some insight into Edward’s life before the crash, and naturally I could understand the impulse of the surviving family members to reach out to Edward, to want to ask him questions, but these passages made me squirm with unease and kept the book shrouded in pain and darkness longer than necessary- often overshadowing or disrupting insights into Edward’s progress.

I also found it a bit curious that the author chose to relate the story in such a neutral, disconnected format. Except for Shay, the other character's backstory and interactions often seemed to take place at a great distance, save for one or two moments of intimate conversations.

However, as the story progressed the grayness slowly lifts, and the sun gradually begins to peek out from behind the gloomy clouds, eventually lighting Edward’s world with long overdue, but generous warmth.

Edward's journey is long, slow, and painful, but he finds strength and wisdom through many avenues, building mental and emotional fortitude with grace, despite his profound grief.

But, of course, he didn’t do it alone. I would be lying if I didn’t admit, that for me, Shay steals the show. What an amazing character!! In this whole drama, she was the bright light that led Edward out of the tunnel of darkness. That is not to say that others in his life weren’t as essential- because they were. It took all these special people, who stayed solid and committed to Edward, for him to become whole again- and he was worth every bit of the effort! Their work and support paid off and I think each of them was blessed and touched by Edward as well. I loved the way the story concluded on such a wonderful and positive note. This story is a testament to the human spirit, and to the power of love and friendship.

Although, I felt the story was too remote much of the time, it did eventually morph into a stirring, inspirational and uplifting novel.






Ann Napolitano's new novel, Dear Edward, will be published by Dial Press in January 2020. She is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm's Reach. She is also the Associate Editor of One Story literary magazine. 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.

Dear Edward will be published by Dial Press in the United States, and by Viking Penguin in the United Kingdom. The novel currently has fourteen international publishers.

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