Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley - Katherine Reay Samantha Moore is a young twenty-something female whose life has been turned upside down. She grew up in foster care and spent most of her life immersed in books, so much that she uses literary quotes to relate to people. Unfortunately this has a tendency to push people away rather than pull them closer. She's recently lost her job and subsequently her apartment. Forced to return to the only home she's known, she heads back to Grace House. However, her stay doesn't come without strings. She'll only be allowed to stay there if she pursues an additional degree. The priest at Grace House, Father John, persuades Samantha to apply to both the Medill School of Journalism and for a grant from the Dover Foundation. After her acceptance to Medill, she is awarded a grant that covers all of her graduate school expenses but she is required to send letters to the head of the foundation providing updates on her progress.

These letters began with rather benign updates but eventually begin to reveal who Samantha is at heart through her interactions with her friends, peers, professors, and acquaintances. These letters also reveal many of the struggles Samantha must endure in her quest to finish her graduate degree. These struggles include a holiday bout with a ruptured appendix, being mugged, and her mental struggle with her degree choice. Fortunately these struggles result in Samantha finding housing closer to the school and negate her having to travel great distances late at night, she also befriends the author Alex Powell and his friends, the Muirs.

Dear Mr. Knightley was actually the first epistolary novel I've read. I thought it would be off-putting reading a novel in letter format, but all of the action and dialogue between the characters are revealed in these letters so at times it didn't even feel like I was reading in a different format. Samantha is a difficult character to understand as she's somewhat prickly at first and doesn't really know who she is since she's spent so much time trying to channel her favorite characters and use literature to try and connect with people. It isn't until she befriends a fellow orphan at Grace House, Kyle, and later Alex that she begins to grow and learn to love and trust. In many ways Dear Mr. Knightley is a coming-of-age story with a twist. I felt all of the characters were well-developed and realistic. It was heartening to watch Samantha grow and learn from her mistakes, although at times others had to point these mistakes out to her. I found Dear Mr. Knightley to be an engaging and fast read that was filled with self-discovery, romance, and drama. If you enjoy reading uplifting or inspirational fiction, then you'll definitely want to add Dear Mr. Knightley to your reading list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Reay in the future.