Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
When Samantha Moore was twenty-two and a recent graduate from Roosevelt College she was offered a full-expense-paid grant and scholarship to earn her master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Samantha declined this generous offer because she didn’t want to continue living at Grace House, a foster organization which she has called home for the last seven years. Instead Samantha opted for the career path and tried to earn her own way in the world. Ten months later finds Samantha, jobless, homeless, and back at Grace House asking if the generous grant to study journalism is still available.
Fortunately for Samantha, it is! But there is just one stipulation – she must regularly report via handwritten letters to the foundation’s director, updating him on her progress and “things that matter.” These letters are to be journal entries that she sends to a P.O. box, and addresses to a pseudonym, Mr. Knightley. Samantha happily accepts this contingency and begins to pen one-sided letters to an unknown, unseen, yet magnanimous Mr. Knightley.
What an intriguing way to tell a story! What a beautiful journey of growth and self-discovery! Because of the terrible treatment and lack of love she received as a child, Samantha has learned to cope with life by detaching from the world around her and retreating into the world of classic novels. But living in a world of novels, donning personalities, and quoting words from Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, or Edmond Dantes will not work for long in the real world… Samantha knows that if she is going to make it through this challenging graduate program, have a career, and support herself she needs to step out of her novels and connect to the world. She needs to have real relationships and be active and present with the people in her life.
I loved how Katherine Reay slowly revealed Samantha’s painful and unhappy past to the reader through these confession-like, soul-purging letters. Even though Samantha is extremely introverted and closed-off, I found her endearing, intelligent, honest, and likable. I took great pleasure in observing the gradual change and development of Samantha’s character, and I loved her voice, what a skilled reader and writer she is!
What I loved most in this story was seeing Samantha develop relationships with the people in her life. Each relationship is unique and forces Samantha to open up in different ways. She learned how to be a friend, big sister, mentor, and even a girlfriend! My heart warmed to see her reach out to a lonely, hurting teen in the foster care system and her lovely, daughter-like relationship with a sweet childless retired couple. But my favorite relationship was with the mysterious Mr. Knightley. Samantha bares her soul to him and divulges everything! I enjoyed pondering who Mr. Knightley was and if he would ever start replying to Samantha’s letters or meet her in person! When I finally “met” Mr. Knightley I was exceedingly pleased with who he was and his revealed storyline. (Mustn’t say anymore…don’t want to spoil!)
Dear Mr. Knightley is a lovely homage to Daddy Long Legs, Jane Austen, and other great classics! An absorbing and thoughtful story full of honesty, hard challenges, and heart! After such a splendid debut, I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Reay’s next novel, Lizzy and Jane, due out in October 2014!