Friday, October 16, 2020

Conversation Starters : 14 Book Club Questions and Answers about "Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano

book club questions and answers about "dear edward" by ann napolitano for a great book club discussion

Did your book club choose "Dear Edward" by Ana Napolitano to read this month? Then congratulations on the excellent book choice! "Dear Edward" has a ton of potential as a book club pick! This book covers so many emotional and important issues and there are definitely plenty of easy discussion-starting moments in the novel. Haven't read the book yet and need to catch up quickly? Think of this post as your "Dear Edward" SparkNotes - I promise, you'll catch up quickly! Keep reading this post for some "Dear Edward" book club discussion starters as well as how I would answer to help get the conversation started!


Book Club Discussion Questions for "Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano


Most of the minor characters in "Dear Edward" focus on supporting and protecting the main character, Edward. What decisions and situations do you think helped him heal and what do you think might have been more painful than helpful for Edward?

Reading the book, I was initially so grateful that Edward had family that were available to take him in after this tragedy. I can not imagine how much more difficult the transition after the crash could have been if he had not had extended family members. I was also so impressed by the immediate generosity of Besa and Shay to allow Edward into her home and accommodate him at all hours. I do wish that there had been more of a sense of crowd control for Edward when he attempted to attend the hearing. I was surprised that they did not have a bodyguard or a back entrance waiting for him when he arrived. I think in reality those would be present for Edward's safety. Without it, it would be dangerous and unfair to submit Edward to a situation where he would have to deal with the emotions of the affected families in such close proximity. 

What characters' stories on the flight were you most drawn to? How did knowing that the characters died in the crash change those sections? Did you like this split in the narrative or was it distracting?

I was really interested in what Edward's parents and brother doing on the plane. And that they were not all sitting together really hit me hard. I also felt really connected to the story of the pregnant passenger as well as the flight attendant. When the narrative would flip from present-day Edward to the flight, I would forget that the plane does not safely land, and then mourn the characters over and over again. I really enjoyed the way the author handled this split narrative and I think it added a lot to the reading experience. There were so many different perspectives and stories that were told by writing it the way that she did. Those different perspectives made the tragedy of the crash that much more upsetting because you were connected to more than just Edward's family, which also tied into the letters and visitors Edward received later in the book.

There were so many emotionally charged and moving scenes in "Dear Edward". What parts of the book did you feel were most impactful? Do you think anything from the book will stay with you long after reading?

I was most affected by Edward meeting Besa. The author wrote, "Besa gives a warm smile, which triggers a memory of Edward's mother smiling, and then triggers a wave of fear. He has the sudden desire to lay down at this woman's feet. Is every mom he encounters going to remind him of his own? If this is the case, he's doomed." This moment was such a gut punch to me as a daughter but also as a mom. It was just such a heartbreaking way to show Edward's loss and how constant that feeling is and will continue to be throughout his life. Such a smart writing choice to show how even kindness, when you are heartbroken from the loss of a parent, can hurt. Edward's loss is so great that even an expression of love from someone else, like another mother smiling at him, just reminds him of his own mother and how much he misses her. 

Do you have a favorite quote from "Dear Edward" that you kept?

My favorite quote that I have thought of many times since finishing the book was from when Edward and his uncle are discussing the news stories about Edward since the crash. His uncle says to him,
"But I want you to understand that there can't be information about you- that is true - that you don't already know. Your life takes place in your own skin. No one else knows a goddamn thing, and the Internet is full of cowboys and sad people making stuff up." He pauses. "I love the internet, or at least I used to, but it's not where you go for the truth." Can we all get this on t-shirts, mugs, and posters? I feel like this is a reminder we could all use in the social media-centric age of 2020. After surviving the plane crash, Edward finds that his name has thousands of Google search results and asks his uncle to keep him updated about what is being discussed, which leads his uncle to the above heart-to-heart moment. It is such a profoundly true and important thing to internalize for Edward because a HUGE part of his life has been decided for him, he no longer has living parents and is staying with his aunt and uncle. It would be easy to lose your grip on reality after a loss like that. But even as an adult spending time on FB and IG, your life exists in real-time, not on the internet. There is nothing that you can create in that space of just curated perfection that changes that, for better or worse. 

During the part of the book on the plane, there are many conversations between the passengers. Do you talk to the people seated near you on a plane? Have you had any memorable interactions good or bad with fellow plane passengers?

I absolutely hate flying and have been lucky more often than not to sit next to an incredibly kind human. In fact, I usually fly Southwest and get to choose my seat and definitely make some quick judgments about who looks like they'll be open to chatting with me. I'm usually pretty shy but when I'm nervous on a plane all of the sudden I become very chatty. I've had some especially good interactions with strangers while flying with my son. There was one lady in particular who was just so sweet to him, smiling while he took her picture with his iPad, and she even helped me open up the barf bag when he almost threw up during the landing. A true hero and fast friend : )

Shay and Edward had a very close relationship that was essential to Edward's healing and coping with loss. As a parent, would you have drawn the same line as Besa for when they needed to sleep in separate rooms? A different line?

As a parent, but also as a previous young girl myself, I just can't imagine being comfortable with this situation even at twelve! However, it seems as though the author intended to portray Shay as either on the spectrum or just atypical of girls her age. I think it made sense that the arrangement was allowed in the book, but off the page, it's a difficult situation to imagine.

As much as 30% of people have a fear of flying. Do you fear flying? And if so, how did reading this book affect you?

I considered picking this book up all the way back in January when it was first released but put it down after hearing that it involved a plane crash. I am an incredibly fearful flyer and expected this book to upset me much more than it did, or at least for different reasons than it did. I was grateful that the actual plane crash portion was a tiny part of the book. But also there is such a hopeful and peaceful tone in the discussion of the crash and also the crash site that it was kind of healing to read it as well. 

Did you enjoy reading "Dear Edward"? Why or why not?

I absolutely loved "Dear Edward", it is one of the best books I have read in 2020 and I can not wait to read more books by this author!

Some novels stick with readers for a long time because of a theme or idea in the book. What messages and ideas did you take away from reading "Dear Edward"?

I think Edward's character will stick with me for a long time. He is definitely a character that I miss now that the book is over. Also, there are about 5-10 quotes from this book that I have saved that will stick with me as well, such as the one I mentioned above between Edward and his uncle. I think the impact each of the adults who cared for Edward had on him will stick with me, as well. From the principal who invited Edward to water his plants to Besa welcoming Edward into her home, this book has so much love in it!

A common question about the book is "Is Dead Edward a true story?" Did you feel like "Dear Edward" could be a true story? Have you heard any similar survival stories that reminded you of Edwards?

I absolutely felt like the events portrayed in "Dear Edward" could happen, and in a way they have. There is one story I found in particular that stands out of a flight attendant who inexplicably survived a 33,000-foot fall, you can read about her story here

After reading "Dear Edward", who would you recommend this book to? Who would you not recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy adult fiction that isn't super heavy on plot. I would not recommend it to readers who do not enjoy sad storylines or just don't read adult fiction and prefer fantasy, for example, because I don't think that "Dear Edward" has a lot of crossover appeal. But no matter what their reading preference, I do think I'd let anyone I recommended the book know about the airplane crash aspect, as well as parent loss because that can be an incredibly difficult thing for some people to read about.

Were you surprised that the survivor's families wrote letters to Edward? How did you feel about the things they said and asked of Edward?

I wasn't surprised that families and loved ones would reach out to Edward but I had not thought about the emotional weight of those letters. I think the author made a really smart choice by having the letters placed into two large, heavy duffle bags as a visual representation of that weight. I was shocked that they would ask so much of a young boy, but perhaps that is accurate to what other survivors have experienced? That would definitely be an interesting thing to research!

"Dear Edward" begins as a tragic story so it can be hard to say you "enjoyed" a book with such difficult topics. What words would you use to describe reading this book or a book like it?

I get this a lot, and I think this happens in book clubs frequently as well. The books that generate the most conversation and facilitate great book club meetings, frequently deal with incredibly difficult topics to discuss, ironically. I tend to say that I found it really impactful or that I loved the book and then add a caveat like, even though it was difficult to read at times. 

What books, movies, or TV shows do "Dear Edward" remind you of? How are they similar or different?

A book that "Dear Edward" reminded me of is "This Is How It Always Is". Although the topics covered are VERY different, the care and concern expressed by families for a young person going through a turbulent time are very similar. Also, the family units in each are strong and add a lot to both of the books. The only TV show I was reminded of is LOST because of the plane crash aspect and the dual timelines on the plane.

Good luck with your book club discussion! Sometimes book quotes can also get the conversation flowing during a book club chat! Click the image below for some of my favorite book quotes from "Dear Edward" by Ana Napolitano.

Book Quotes from "Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano


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