... a haunting novel that’s a masterful study in suspense, grief and survival ... Napolitano’s dual-timeline structure turns Dear Edward into a suspenseful page-turner with sprinkles of mystery, satisfying our rubbernecking urge to see the unfolding of a disaster and its aftermath ... While none of the adults in either the real crash or the novel it inspired survive, Napolitano’s fearless examination of what took place models a way forward for all of us. She takes care not to sensationalize, presenting even the most harrowing scenes in graceful, understated prose, and gives us a powerful book about living a meaningful life during the most difficult of times.
There’s something brutal about killing a planeload of people and then introducing a handful of them and killing them all over again. But the cruelty of this aspect of the novel’s structure is countered by the astonishing tenderness of other sections ... Napolitano has written a novel about the peculiar challenges of surviving a public disaster in the modern age. She shows with bracing clarity just how cable news and social media magnify misery and exposure as never before ... Napolitano attends to this cultural context deftly, letting the world’s agony and curiosity play out largely on the sidelines of what remains a delicate story of one boy’s physical and psychological recovery ... That blankness at the center of this novel could have become a kind of black hole absorbing all light and interest, but Napolitano captures the subtle shades of Edward’s spirit like the earliest intimations of dawn ... in Napolitano’s gentle handling, it’s persistently lovely ... one of the most touching stories you’re likely to read in the new year.
With its expert pacing and picture-perfect final page, Dear Edward is a wondrous read. It is a skillful and satisfying examination of not only what it means to survive, but of what it means to truly live.
Napolitano poignantly explores a child coming of age in the aftermath of tragedy and trauma ... Edward's father used mathematics to 'tie together pieces of the universe'; Ann Napolitano uses words to do the same in Dear Edward--a dazzling, tender novel about sorrow and despair, resilience and great love.
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 ... Napolitano’s humanity and love of her characters renders each of these people whole and complex ... Napolitano explores the deepest question there is, the one that Job himself struggled to understand — 'Why me, Lord?' — and provides a solid and satisfying answer ... such an optimistic diversion that you might not even notice how important and finely made it is. Never soppy, the novel provides pitch-perfect understanding of human vulnerabilities. When you’re reading, you’re deep in the pleasure of good storytelling, but when you’re done, you know that you’ve experienced a brush with literary virtuosity.
... Napolitano deftly navigates the psychological and physical trauma of 12-year-old Edward Adler in the aftermath of a plane crash, of which he is the only survivor ... isn’t a page turner with cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. Instead it’s a slow burn that draws you in to Edward’s interior life, the melancholia of his loss and of the fractured lives around him ... It’s hard for a novel to thoroughly capture a reader’s attention while simultaneously meditating on profoundly complex issues. In Dear Edward, Napolitano manages to achieve this. The delicate sparseness of her prose slowly peels back the layers to reveal a warm, fulfilling center that is a true reward for readers.
... penetrating ... Edward does go forward, in illuminating if unexpected ways. But what makes this narrative so effective is its alternating between the ordinary events unfolding on the flight and the aftermath of the crash, which keeps the sense of loss and the significance of what has happened fresh in readers’ minds ... The painfully vivid story of one boy’s coming of age redirected by tragedy.
Make sure you have tissues handy when you read Ann Napolitano's Dear Edward, a sure-footed tearjerker about the miraculous — but troubled — survival of a 12-year-old boy ... moving ... Dear Edward is in part a tale of survivor guilt, which is fueled by the weight of oppressive, often bizarre expectations on the miracle boy, especially from the families of victims who want him to fulfill their loved ones' dreams and plans ... transportative.
A sort of willful tearjerker ... The first chapter, an ode to the mundane routines of air travel, contains real bite and an authenticity the novel loses hold of; subsequent airborne revelations (She’s pregnant! He’s gay!) feel indulgently mawkish. But Edward’s path to finding purpose and connection is realized with an affecting, quiet empathy. You’ll sob to the end.
Napolitano builds a gentle but persistent tension as she navigates the minds of passengers on a plane that is about to crash ... Wonderfully detailed characters ... The potent prose brings readers close to the complex emotional and psychological fallout after tragedy. Edward’s intolerable losses and his eventual brave recovery is at first melancholy, but by the end, readers will feel a comforting sense of solace. Napolitano’s depiction of the nuances of post-trauma experiences is fearless, compassionate, and insightful.
For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival ... As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope ... Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.