"My Name Is Edward"

"My Name Is Edward" by Annmarie Topel. 

What would you do if you noticed a homeless person living in a bus shelter in the middle of a frigid, snowy winter? Drive by and ignore him, or try to help? When Ann, a successful businesswoman, notices a homeless man in just this situation, something about him draws her to him.

“My Name Is Edward” by Annmarie Topel is a carefully crafted debut novel based on personal experience. “This is a story of fiction inspired, in part, by true events,” she writes. She dedicates her book to the homeless man, who in her book she names Edward: “You will always be in my heart.”

Reader reviews so far have one thing in common to say: It’s a hard book to put down.


Topel spends much of the book describing Edward and Ann’s difficult backgrounds. As children, both were made to feel unwanted, and carried their scars into adulthood.

As the story begins, Edward is fired from his factory job after causing a disturbance and is removed under police escort. Mentally troubled (he hears voices that often guide him into odd behaviors), he’s evicted from his apartment, again under police escort, carrying all he owns in a child’s red backpack that he still feels guilty about retrieving from the garbage in the back alley.

Topel skillfully details how Edward’s life falls apart while providing insight into how he ended up where he is.

Edward was raised by his grandmother who never forgave her daughter for abandoning him soon after his birth. A God-fearing person, she constantly reminds Edward of his shortcomings, with a fire and brimstone delivery. He never had a chance to develop any self-esteem. When his grandmother dies, the voices in his head repeat her criticisms, becoming stronger and more negative. On the street, the voices sometimes lead him into physical altercations. He’s a loner, and trusts no one.


Ann has a troubled past of her own. After her parents divorce and her father disappears, she is raised by her unhappy mother who is addicted to alcohol, pills and drama. Her mother is verbally abusive, throws things about, and thinks nothing of driving drunk. She frequently threatens Ann with abandonment. Like so many children of alcoholics, Ann becomes the responsible one in their relationship.

Somehow, Ann overcomes her volatile childhood and begins a promising job in the broadcasting industry, but she can’t escape her memories. Her mother often calls her at work to deliver drunken tirades, and when she shows up uninvited at an important work event, Ann is reduced to tears.

When Ann spots Edward at the bus shelter on her drive to work, she can relate. “I wondered if anyone in the world gave a damn about me, even my own mother,” she reflects.

Now happily married to a supportive husband, and in spite of her busy career, Ann becomes obsessed with helping Edward. She’s impressed by his neat habits and mild demeanor, and he doesn’t smoke or drink.

As the winter worsens and people living on the streets freeze to death, she slowly gains his trust and gives him warm blankets and food, and wants to do more. But is it for him, or for herself?


Topel artfully depicts the dangers of homelessness — the constant, desperate search for food and shelter, and the torment from other homeless persons damaged by demons and sorrows of their own. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 45% of homeless people experience mental illness, as Edward does.

She lays out the vicious cycle of how people can lose everything, and how so many can fall through the cracks, unaware of the resources available to help them.

Her characters are more than sympathetic. Readers will find the details of Ann and Edward’s traumatic beginnings disturbing and painful, but Topel’s message is one of hope and kindness.

Topel herself grew up in a turbulent environment and had a successful career in the broadcasting industry before retiring to pursue writing. Her book is a testament to survival, and how people in very different circumstances can connect if they follow their hearts.

She hopes her book will foster support for the homeless. “My Name Is Edward” helps us better understand the human dimensions and gives us much food for thought. It would make a great choice for sparking thoughtful book club discussions.

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