“What do you know about me, Mr. Knightley? Really know? No matter what Father John told you or sent you, you can’t know it all. No one does. I alone carry it each and every day. And no matter how many characters I hide behind, how much work I bury myself beneath, my past still pushes me every day and haunts me every night.”
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature. After college, she receives an extraordinary opportunity: the anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him updated on her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her–a damaged teenager and fellow foster care kid, her classmates and professors at Medill, and most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own–secrets that make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.
Dear Mr. Knightley is one of those novels that takes a little while to get into, but once you reach that point, it’s really hard to put the book down.
For me, there were two reasons I wasn’t fully invested from the beginning: the epistolary style and the e-book format. I was given this novel by the publisher in exchange for a review, but the e-book they sent me was so bad, and I’m not referring to the context of the story at all. The e-book was FULL of punctuation errors that would have normally caused me to not finish the book. So I highly recommend reading this book in print format, to avoid any e-book errors, but also because this story is told almost entirely through letters. It took some time for me to get used to Samantha’s letters, but fortunately she is a reliable narrator, one you start to root for after uncovering her past.
Samantha’s story is intriguing, especially when we finally get to see into her past. Because she’s writing these letters to an anonymous stranger, she doesn’t just jump into her painful back story. We have to wait a little while, just like all of the other characters, before she opens up to us. But once she finally does become vulnerable her story becomes so much more interesting. Before that moment the story is rather fluffy and sappy (especially with all of the classic literature quotes she throws in during daily conversations), but afterwards you start to understand how she uses these characters to hide behind because she’s too afraid to get hurt by others.
“I still fear judgement. Most days I feel cast off, dirty, and not worthy. Won’t others feel the same way about me?”
Which brings me to the secondary characters. To be honest, I was much more invested in their stories than in Sam’s, especially Kyle’s and the Muirs’s. Kyle is the wayward teenager who shares Sam’s foster system tragedy. Sam takes him under her wing when he’s abrasive and short-tempered and by the end you really just want to hug him. I loved how his character development panned out. The Muirs are a lovable older couple that bring warmth and comfort into the novel and into Sam’s life.
Dear Mr. Knightley surprised me because it was so much more than just an Austen-inspired novel. The themes cut much deeper: allowing oneself to be vulnerable after being hurt emotionally and physically, child rights & the pitfalls of the foster care system, and helping out others even in the midst of personal struggles and tribulations.
Read This If…:
…you enjoy books that surprise you
…you like reading books that talk about deep and painful things
…you sympathize with characters who stay pure and kindhearted in an ugly world
…you love a love story!
I really enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightley because it surprised me with its deeper & unexpected plot points. This story made my heart break at times and my face light up in a smile at others. Please give this novel a chance! It’s much more than an Austen-inspired light read :)
“All this is a part of us. God, bad, and ugly, Sam, this is our story.”