“This was not a tragedy. Dying on your couch watching TV by yourself is a tragedy. Dying while doing something you love with every part of your body is magic. I wish you magic, Edward.”

I finished out the year reading Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Edward is the only remaining member of his immediate family, after being the lone survivor of a plane crash. This is a tale of how one survives the aftermath of devastation, of how you reconcile with the person that you were and the person you become because of it. It’s inspired by a plane crash that happened in 2010, where a 9 year old boy was the only survivor.

Don’t expect this to be a rollicking tale, it is slow burning. The build up to the crash is quiet, chilling, and unassuming. It seems more real because she didn’t dramatize the crash. I felt anxious while reading, knowing the characters’ fates and hearing the direction their life was taking before they tragically passed. I had goosebumps and a lump in my throat as the book progressed.

Most of us haven’t been through something as traumatic as our whole family dying in a plane crash, thankfully. Ann Napolitano’s writing still struck a chord with me. She evokes that keen sense of melancholy that one feels after they’ve experience a shock, a heart break, the loss of a loved one. The capacity to be numb and deeply, deeply sad all at once.

One of the hardest lessons portrayed in this book, is dealing with the fact that everything DOES NOT always happen for a reason. Edward’s friend Shay wants him to be “the boy who lived” and relates him to Harry Potter. She speculates that his powers will show themselves. Sometimes we have to recognize that bad things happen. Life is about learning to deal when they do. We sometimes have to live through being a mess before we heal. There isn’t always a bright side to tragedy. We live in those dark places until we have enough strength to climb out of them.

I’m not sure the slow burn of this book would have resonated with me as much if it wasn’t at this exact point in my life. 2020 has been rough for me even if you took the pandemic out of the equation. I found myself relating to Edward’s reaction to trauma, the numbness that is only dispelled when you allow yourself to feel the pain and break down. This can relate to many moments of our lives, even when they aren’t as intense as what he’s going through. Sometimes books find you at the perfect time and you enjoy them all the more.

“Humans need community, for our emotional health. We need connection, a sense of belonging. We are not built to thrive in isolation.”

Here’s to more reading in 2021 and hopefully, a better year for all!

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