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.
Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly follow’s Samantha Moore’s struggle to create the life she wants for herself. After failing to make it on her own, Sam is forced to return to Grace House, the charity that took her in as a child, and ask for help once more – something she swore she would never do. Through Grace House, she is given the opportunity to go to grad school and achieve what she perceives to be a “normal life.” However, the grant comes with one string attached: Sam must write letters to the head of the foundation and keep him updated on her progress. For her comfort, he decides to keep it all anonymous, giving her a pseudonym and promising to never reply to her letters. Told through Sam’s correspondence, Dear Mr. Knightly chronicles Sam’s attempt to achieve her dreams.
I absolutely loved this book! It started slowly, but the hesitant way the narrative unfolded is totally natural to Sam’s guarded personality. As the plot progressed, I watched Sam struggle and fail, only to come to a place of total honesty that allowed her to start over again with fresh hope. Through defeat, disappointment, grace, and tough love, Sam shed her carefully constructed exterior and opened up to the people around her. As she learned how to be vulnerable with others, Sam found a way to be comfortable with her own voice and write with an honesty that had always eluded her. Though the story doesn’t end with a perfectly tied bow, Sam has grown enough to be secure in herself, even when facing a revelation that would previously have sent her burrowing deeper behind her protective walls. Watching Sam unfold throughout the novel was an absolute joy, and I can’t wait to give Dear Mr. Knightly a second read.