Just a year ago, Michelle Knight was chained inside a dilapidated house near downtown Cleveland, wondering if she’d ever be free.
“Everything in the house was unexplainable,” says Knight, 33. “It happened. I don’t know the reasons why.”
What she does know, as she told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview, is that she survived the nightmare and is finally regaining her life.
Her memoir Finding Me, excerpted exclusively in next week’s issue, is out May 6, the one-year anniversary of her escape from the house where she, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were held for more than a decade.
In it she details the abuse she suffered at the hands of her captor, Ariel Castro, and the friendship with her fellow captives that helped keep her going. “I think basically every day we told each other we’d make it out alive,” she says.
Since the day their rescue made national headlines, it has been a whirlwind for the 4’11” Knight. She has started cooking school, has her own apartment in Cleveland and has changed her name to Lily, “my favorite flower,” to symbolize a fresh start.
She and Berry and DeJesus, who are working on a book of their own, have gone their separate ways because they’re all healing, Knight says, but there’s no bad blood. “I love them and they love me. Hopefully we’ll all get back together again.”
In the meantime she’s savoring every moment. “I don’t take things for granted anymore,” she says, “not even the little things like looking out a window. I went through years of torture, and now I’m back. I’m free to fly.”
For more on Michelle Knight’s amazing story pick up next week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands May 7