Hoopla Digital announced that audiobooks would be made available through your public library (previously only the movies and music were accessible). This is in addition to the Overdrive titles offered by the library kids! So of course I did what every Hoarder here is guilty of doing…I dropped everything and logged into my Hoopla account. 🙂
And, wow, do they ever offer a great number of titles! While it is a little clunkier to use than the Overdrive app (it’s slower to load and you cannot get a good sense of how far along you are in the book) overall, the multitude of available titles has me frequently checking over my favourite ones, and I do this often (so then, one of the pros about Hoopla Digital is how pretty the page looks with all those book covers displayed.)
So, on a complete whim, I downloaded Dear Mr. Knightley. The description says it is told entirely in epistolary format, so I was immediately sold. For an audiobook downloaded on a whim, I certainly hit the jackpot with this title! I thoroughly enjoyed this story so very much and the narration by Hilary Huber was divine! So much so I’m truly struggling to settle into another audiobook that will give me as much pleasure as Dear Mr. Knightley.
Dear Mr. Knightley is the story of Samantha (Sam) Moore. Sam was removed from abusive parents at a very young age, and has been in and out of more abusive foster homes than she cares to share. She settles into Grace House, run by Father John. Here, she is pushed further into graduate education by Father John and expressly to attend the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. Sam has received a full scholarship to the Medill School, something that was granted by a mysterious benefactor. This benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, plays upon Sam’s love for Austen and asks to be addressed only as “Mr. Knightley”. He requests that Sam write him monthly letters telling him about school and her life. The story consists almost entirely of these letters to Mr. Knightley. Another part of this arrangement is that Knightley is never to write to her, but he does provide her with clothes, rent, tuition and a valuable chance at rebirth.
Sam’s life has been shaped always by “hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.” (from Goodreads) Yet because of this scholarship, she is pushed to live her life outside of those lives found in her favourite literature by enrolling in this journalism program. Each assignment tests Sam’s willingness to live outside of an Austen story, and through her letters to Knightley we are taken along in this journey with Sam as she grows into a mature adult, one that is ready to break free from her heartbreaking past.
We are also lead through her (rocky) friendship with a teenage boy, Kyle, also living at Grace House. Kyle’s story is just as harrowing as Sam’s and together we learn about both of their terrible pasts and their journey to adoption and adulthood. (When Samantha Moore explains where her name originated =Heartbreaking.)
Sam struggles with finding her place in the journalism program as it is far outside her wheelhouse. But she grows to understand she must find her purpose here. She also finds first love, only to realize he really isn’t the one for her. Along the way she also meets the author Alex Powell. Sam also struggles with what her relationship is with Alex. He is as closed off and in pain as she is, and she is unsure of her true feelings for him. Through Alex, she also meets Professor Muir and his wife. They take her in just as they have done with Alex and offer her great security, love and trust.
Although Dear Mr. Knightley, is labelled as Christian Fiction, I wouldn’t say this should put you off if you’re concerned it’s will be too preachy. While there are moments where her “new family” the Muirs, pray for her when they discover her past history in the foster care system otherwise, this is simply a lovely, uplifting, wonderfully told coming of age story that will please you to no end. A feel-good story for certain. My whim pleasantly and delightfully paid off.
Hilary Huber’s voice is exceptionally smooth and delightful. Her smooth tone and lovely lilt lend Samantha Moore’s story, told entirely through epistles to the ever-mysterious Mr. Knightley, a perfectly suited voice and one that will endear itself closely to your heart.
I loved it, I just absolutely loved it. The identity of Mr. Knightley may or may not come as a surprise, I wasn’t completely sure until the end, but it only adds and never detracts from Sam’s story. Yes, the story ends in a super duper happy way, but you only wish and truly want that for Sam anyway.
Recently the cover of this book was popping up on my radar and I never made the connection until I started listening to DMK:
It is also written by Katherine Reay and is available in audio as well – and narrated by Hilary Huber! Knowing the story that delighted me so in DMK, I will eagerly be downloading Lizzy & Jane in the very near future. While Hillary Huber narrates Lizzy & Jane (yay!), I will have to put a little time between the two books so I do not confuse the voice of Sam with the ones in Lizzy & Jane.
(As an aside, when perusing the Goodreads reviews for Dear Mr. Knightley, it appears this book is one of those where you either really loved it (like myself) or you really did not. For myself, it certainly was the right read at the right time.)