Delightful novel written almost entirely in the form of letters. The diary-like letters are the sole condition for Samantha’s grant to attend a journalism program.
We gradually learn of Sam’s painful past and watch as she grows, while helping others from Grace House, her orphan home. The unconditional love she finds with surrogate parents and other new friends is touching. There is a delicious contrast between Sam’s superficial boyfriend, Josh, and complicated thriller author, Alex. Relationship struggles find a satisfying conclusion.
There are some beautiful turns of phrase. Describing a lobster: “A large sea creature was deposited in front of me, and I had no clue what to do with it.” The colour of her new apartment: “The way pale yellow should look, like sunshine and butter, mixed with hope and cream.”
Other historical books are brought to life in Sam’s habit of quoting from them when stressed and needing words to express her feelings. But not entirely her thoughts, the quotations distance her from others. Sam learns to rely less on these escapes and to be more in the moment. It’s touching when a former tormentor says, “I used to get so jealous of you and be glad when you shut down and went away into your head. It made me feel strong. I want to feel strong again.”
Readers of Christian fiction will appreciate the subtle way that faith enters. Grace House is managed by Father John, who provides an ever-loving presence for his charges. A beautiful prayer is offered by the eventual adopters of one child, at his homecoming meal: “God, you gave us your Son, and now you’ve given us ours. We are so humbled and rocked to our very core to be blessed with this boy. Keep him close to you, Lord. Keep our eyes wide open when any danger approaches, any fears invade, or any enemy comes to steal the peace, the love, and the grace you’ve granted us. You are our God, and we are your children. Never let us forget. Amen.” What a marvellous benediction that we can all apply every day.
The pattern of writing to a mysterious benefactor brought to mind Jean Webster’s “Daddy-Long-Legs.” I watched the 1955 movie with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron with my family in my teens. Now I want to read the book. Luckily a local library has it, which is amazing, as it was originally published in 1912! Online sources also have a play, subtitled “a comedy in four acts,” and a children’s storybook.
- Irene Plett
Details: Katherine Reay, Dear Mr. Knightley (2013, Thomas Nelson, ISBN 9781401689691)
References: p. 61, 73, 240, 267.
Topics: Katherine Reay, Dear Mr. Knightley, fiction, orphans, children, teenagers, young adults, faith, romance, literature, writers, Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs, Daddy Long Legs (film), Fred Astaire, Leslie Caron