Dear Mr. Knightley
(Thomas Nelson) is
a new drama/romance gem in the world of Christian fiction. The debut novel of
author Katherine Reay, it tells the story of orphan Samantha Moore and her
struggles and accomplishments during graduate school in Chicago.
Unlike a typical
novel, where the reader is afforded the perspectives of many characters of the
story, the story unfolds in Dear Mr.
Knightley from the perspective of Samantha – known to those around her as
“Sam.” These letters are addressed to the mysterious Mr. Knightley, a
benefactor whose foundation has funded her graduate studies at the Medill
School of Journalism. This format allows the reader to see candid glimpses into
Sam’s life, but only through details her character reveals. In this way, she
gradually reveals her past and personality through snippets of her history and
Sam grew up in
and out of the foster care system, seeking refuge between families at Grace
House, an orphanage for children and young adults still in college. Upon the
recommendation of Father John, the administrator of Grace House, Samantha is
rewarded a grant from the Dover Foundation to attend graduate school – with one
condition. Samantha must write journal-style letters to Mr. Knightley updating
him on her progress in school or any other matters she feels compelled to
share. Though at first very reluctant, Sam begins to share her heart and her
feelings through her one-way communications.
During her time
at Medill, Sam meets the famous author Alex Powell. His friendship reveals
insights into Sam’s character and introduces her to people who become prominent
positive influences in her life. Additionally, Alex has secrets from his past,
which he is reluctant to share with anyone. These secrets have the potential to
harm his friendship with Sam and change the course of her life.
Reay infuses characters
and quotes from classic literature throughout the novel. Jane Austen is the prominent author, but
other famous authors such as Charlotte Bronte and Alexandre Dumas are included,
too. Books were Sam’s escape from reality growing up. She would get lost in a
fictional world and enjoy the happiness and triumphs of the characters. As an
adult, Sam has still maintained an invisible wall separating her from intimate
relationships or friendships for fear of emotional pain. Book quotes and
references pour from her lips at various times; often when she is not sure what
to say, or when she wants to withdraw from a conversation. These characters
have become a crutch Sam unknowingly depends on. When a literature reference is
made, additional context and explanations are briefly included so that an
unfamiliar reader is not left out.
is realistically flawed and carries emotional baggage from her past, which
haunts her. She has clear self-esteem issues, and she is afraid to let people
in. After making new friends and acquaintances through her graduate studies,
her character grows and new light is shed on her past struggles. Through Sam’s
experiences, a common theme revealed is the importance of love and trust – and
that it is okay to be vulnerable. Her character illustrates the human tendency
to vacillate between extreme doubt and complete self-assurance, while in
reality Christ desires to be the steady anchor.
Dear Mr. Knightley released November 5, 2013--find out more here!
Courtney Clark is a small-town girl from
Arkansas who loves Jesus, reading, photography, cooking, crocheting, and hot
tea (in any combination). When she’s not doing any of those things, she’s
working at her family’s restaurant or teaching at the local community college.
Catch up with her at her blog, thegreenmockingbird.wordpress.com, or follow her
on twitter @CameraCourt.