Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show and Today with Hoda and Jenna is starting off 2020 with her latest pick for her popular book club, Read With Jenna. The January selection is the poignant story of a 12-year-old boy dealing with a life-changing loss, starting the new decade off with an unforgettable page-turner.
“Dear Edward” focuses on the 12-year-old sole survivor of a devastating plane crash that kills 183 passengers, including his family. Starting a life with his aunt and uncle, Edward has to find a way to navigate his new reality while being a topic of national news headlines.
Shifting between Edward’s present challenges in his new beginning and the fated plane trip from New Jersey to California that highlights the passengers, author Ann Napolitano showcases the themes of loss and humanity.
The novel’s poignant plot caught Hager’s attention. “I choose “Dear Edward” because it is a book about love and loss and finding your way after the unthinkable,” Hager said, according to Today. “I thought to start our year off, even though hopefully nothing this dramatic happens in everyone’s life, we can all think about a new lease on life.”
Perfectly timed for a new decade
The Read With Jenna founder was drawn to the redemptive foundation the story shared. “The theme or the message that I took away is really about shared humanity, about goodness, about faith, about finding redemption and grace even after the unthinkable and that’s what Edward does,” Hager said.
Seeing this selection as the ideal choice to begin 2020, Hager found “Dear Edward” to be a compelling story of renewal. “I think when we are starting our year, there was no better book to talk about what we want for ourselves,” the Today co-host said. “There can be this newness, this rebirth even if nothing terrible has happened.”
An author’s inspiration
The idea for the book came to Napolitano from a real-life story that happened a decade ago. “It started with my obsession with a real plane crash from 2010. A commercial flight from South Africa to London—filled with mostly Dutch passengers on their way home from vacation—crashed in Libya, and everyone on the flight died except for one 9-year-old boy named Ruben van Assouw,” the author revealed. “Ruben was found still strapped in to his seat about a half-mile away from the wreckage… He had a badly broken leg and a punctured lung but was otherwise fine. Everyone else, including his parents and brother, died immediately.”
The tragedy prompted Napolitano to create the story of “Dear Edward” as a way of comprehending how individuals start over in the face of extreme loss. “I couldn’t read enough about this story,” Napolitano said. “I knew fairly quickly that I was going to have to write my way into understanding how this little boy could possibly walk away from this crash, from the loss of his entire family, and find a way to not only survive but live.”
Hager raved about the book on Instagram, encouraging readers to pick up the novel for a moving literary journey. “It is a book about resilience and grace and about building a new life,” she posted. “As J. Courtney Sullivan said: ‘It will break your heart and put it back together again.’”
“Dear Edward” hit book shelves on January 6!