Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
Thomas Nelson, 2013
Summary (from the back cover):
Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.
Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.
But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.
Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.
“Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be, is hard work” (200).
Ok, I admit it. I was skeptical about this book. A novel made up completely of letters? It’s not really my thing. But, let me tell you, I was so wrong. I completely LOVED this book.
There is so much I want to say about this book, but I want to focus on Sam’s character growth. I think she had a remarkable journey. We meet her as a lonely, isolated young woman who has trouble making connections with other people. Due to growing up in the foster care system and living a difficult life, she hides in books and finds it hard to open up to other people. But she does just that- Sam learns to open her heart and let people in, albeit is a slow process.
As Samantha makes her way through grad school and all the struggles that come with it, she makes an honest effort to learn how to share her life with others. Of course, she faces several setbacks when she feels uncomfortable sharing and retreats to her safe place, in books. These mistakes sway her on the path to letting people in, but she slowly becomes surer of herself and learns that relationships are hard work, but they are worth it.
What I loved about Samantha is that she is such a relatable character. She not only struggles to find her own voice and who she is, but she is also searching for the place where she belongs. This is a universal struggle that we all face at one time or another in our lives, and that is exactly what makes her so relatable.
Along the way, we see Sam’s journey of growth through the letters she writes to Mr. Knightley, all the while, wondering, who exactly is this man who knows Sam’s innermost thoughts? Will his identity ever be discovered? And how will his identity affect Sam?
Debut author, Katherine Reay, has written a beautiful story full of warmth that will keep you turning the pages to see if Samantha Moore will rise to the occasion and succeed, despite the odds. Can Samantha find a way to open her heart and find her own voice?
I can’t wait to read Katherine Reay’s next book, Lizzy and Jane!
Rating: 5 stars
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”