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Book club questions for Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano covers all the key events and themes in this moving coming-of-age story. There will be spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review.
Dear Edward was inspired by the true story of Ruben Van Assouw, the sole survivor of a plane crash in 2010. In this interview with Library Journal, the author Ann Napolitano explains why the story grabbed her:
I think I couldn’t let go because I was both deeply worried about Ruben and deeply curious about how he could go on after such a terrible tragedy. His aunt and uncle did an amazing job of protecting Ruben’s privacy once he was released from the hospital, but that meant I couldn’t know that he became okay. I had to create a set of circumstances under which a little boy in that situation could believably become a whole person, in spite of—or even because of—what he’d lost. I needed him to be okay, so I had to write my way into believing that was possible.
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.
Book Club Questions for Dear Edward
- The story starts off when the Adler family arrives to Newark airport to board a flight from New Jersey to LA. It’s very mundane. But, we the readers, know that all the characters are soon heading to tragedy. Let’s talk about this opening chapter.
- The characters we meet in this chapter are: Bruce and Jane Alder (Edward’s parents); his brother Jordan; Crispin Cox, an elderly wealthy man; Linda Stollen, a young pregnant woman; Florida, a hippie woman running away from domestic life; Benjamin Stillman, a complicated military vet; Mark Lassio, a brash businessman and Veronica, a flight attendant. What was your initial impression of all these characters?
- The story alternates between the plane ride and the aftermath. What did you think about this writing style of the different timelines? Were you more engaged with one timeline over the other?
- After the crash, Edward stays with his aunt Lacey and Uncle John. But it’s a somewhat awkward and stilted dynamic. Let’s talk about their dynamic at the beginning of the novel. Do you think the constant grief and memories of loved ones is a reason why they all were so closed off to each other?
- Edward is depressed and can’t sleep. He goes to his next door neighbor’s house where Shay, a girl his age, lives and ends up sleeping on her floor for a long time. Why do you think Edward was more comfortable with Shay than being with anyone else?
- Let’s talk about the dynamics of Edward and Shay. How did they both find solace with each other?
- Of all the plane passengers, which storyline were you most engaged with? Which one the least?
- Gary, who is Linda’s boyfriend, drives across the country to meet with Edward. He hopes that maybe Edward had seen or interacted with Linda on the flight. After that, Edward and Shay discover hundreds of letters addressed to Edward from the family and spouses of loved ones who perished on the flight. This is a really key section so let’s break it down more. First, why do you think they all felt a need to write letters to Edward? What did Edward represent them?
- Why do you think it was important for the people to tell Edward to become what their loved ones couldn’t do (such as write a novel, move to London, become a standup comedian, etc.)? What they’re really asking for Edward is to continue their loved ones legacy—let’s talk about it.
- When Edward reads the letters, it’s understandably a lot but is also eventually provides a bit of closure for him. Why do you think those letters had that impact on him?
- Toward the end of the novel, Edward runs into his therapist and he mentions he still thinks about the crash all the time. His therapist says to him: “What happened to you is baked into your bones, Edward…what you’ve been working on, since the first time I met you, is learning to live with that.” Let’s discuss this.
- Edward and Shay eventually go back to the crash site in Colorado. We also learn of that future together. Let’s talk about the ending.
What to Read Next
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Dear Edward! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is one of the most anticipated books of 2020. A very powerful book.
In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son, Xavier, who’s headed to college in the fall. All is well until the Whitmans—a family with new money and a secretly troubled teenage daughter—raze the house and trees next door to build themselves a showplace.
With little in common except a property line, these two families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.
A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today—what does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?—as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is an ambitious novel about regret, mistakes and forgiveness.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.