Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan (2018)
“To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness in yourself.” Aslan, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan is anything but a slight novel; rather it is an intellectually inspiring and absolutely fascinating story. This vividly intriguing interpretation about the life of Joy Davidman (1915-1960), the American poet and novelist; she became a close confidant, friend, and eventual wife of the famous fantasy writer, Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), until her untimely death from cancer. Through their shared correspondence and love of writing, their passion to understand life’s purpose was finally and fully satiated.
The depth and dimension of this story creatively unfurls through Joy’s voice. Jack (as close friends called him) and Joy were antithetical, from their twenty year age difference to their different countries, cultures and religions. However, their correspondence over a three-year span conveys their deepest thoughts of life’s longings, sufferings, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The vehicle to understanding truth was via their work. It took Jack a long time to realize he had met his match, his soulmate. This historical fiction love story is told in exquisite narrative that takes Joy from her home in the Bronx; brings her to Jack’s life at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Magdalene College; and to Jack’s countryside home, The Kilns, found in his Narnia books. There we find his gardener, Fred Paxford, said to have inspired the character of Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in The Silver Chair. We come to know Jack’s devoted brother, Warnie, and other members of the famous writer’s group, The Inklings, including Jack’s best friend J. R. R. Tolkein, known to him as Tolley. We gain further insight into Joy through her unconditional love for her two young sons, David and Douglas Gresham, from a previous, turbulent marriage. I found this book to be compelling and immersive and I hope you will as well.
Open your door, lest the belated heart die in the bitter night; open your door. “Sonnet XLIV,” Joy Davidman
Review by Carol McFadden, Head of Children’s Services
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