This book was captivating throughout, but the last eight chapters and epilogue were thoroughly “unputdownable.”
Patti Callahan has written a gem, bringing to the world the story of how Joy Davidman, a gifted poet and writer, became Mrs. C. S. Lewis. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” a literary-historical fiction novel, though not the first book about their relationship, is the first told from Joy’s perspective.
Joy was an intellectual who graduated high school at age 14, college at age 19, then earned a Master’s degree from Columbia in just three semesters while working as a teacher. Her work was published to critical acclaim and she soon began writing full time.
Fast forward a few years, and Joy, married with two young sons and an alcoholic husband, was feeling spiritually lost in a shaky marriage. She began searching for answers to questions about faith, her writing, how to balance the selflessness of motherhood with the selfishness of writing.
Her search led to an article written about Englishman C.S. (Jack) Lewis, an Oxford fellow and converted atheist.
Feeling a strong connection to his writing and believing Lewis could have answers for her confusion, she wrote to him – and began an extended communication with the esteemed author and teacher. Eventually, Joy finally traveled to Oxford to meet Jack. Her search for answers led the two to find love.
Despite her significant literary body of work, Joy Davidman is still, to this day, not well known outside of literary circles. Rarely has she been given credit as the inspiration, the creative muse, right hand, dearest friend and later wife of the much-loved and acclaimed author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Screwtape Letters.”
Of her motivation in writing this book, Callahan said, “We are often woefully negligent of the women behind the men we admire and Joy Davidman is one of those women.” Callahan also noted that “Joy often seemed not to care what others thought of her – but I did.”
Bravo, Patti Callahan! How many other “hidden” stories are out there in the volumes of published literature? Readers will be compelled to search out and read the works of both Lewis and Davidman after knowing their unique story and their unremitting adoration and respect for each other.
The audience for this book is broad, including lovers of literary fiction, historical fiction and great love stories. Also, readers who appreciate excellent writing will love the pitch-perfect prose and tender care Callahan took in the telling.
Callahan is the bestselling author of 13 novels. Her articles and essays appear in Southern Living, Writer’s Digest, Portico Magazine, Birmingham Magazine and more. She is a contributor to “Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy,” which was released Sept. 18.
The mother of three children, Callahan lives in both Mountain Brook, Ala., and Bluffton with her husband.
Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.