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Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Review

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan Henry, writing as Patti Callahan

BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan's first work of historical fiction, thrusts readers into the world of Joy Davidman --- acclaimed writer and wife of C. S. Lewis --- and you will never want to escape this story where two become one.

At the onset of the novel, Joy Davidman --- married to noir fiction writer Bill Gresham --- throws herself onto the ground in prayer and surrenders to God. Her husband is a violent alcoholic and rampant cheater. Joy does not know it yet, but one part of her life has ended --- silence, insecurity, fear --- and a new chapter has begun. This new chapter is much more fulfilling, one that women with children in the ’50s rarely entertained due to the rigidity of the times. In the moment Joy falls to her knees, she is no longer an atheist. God seeps into the cracks of her heart and remains there forever.

After finding God, Joy is determined to know him and fix her ailing relationship with her husband. But destiny has other plans. As she researches Christianity, Joy discovers C. S. Lewis, also a converted atheist. She devours all of his writings, finding the hidden wisdom in his novel THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS to be especially captivating. Joy is a determined woman. She attended Hunter College at the young age of 15 and went on to receive a master’s degree in fiction from Columbia University. Her indomitable spirit, even in the face of adversity, leads her to reach out directly to Mr. Lewis in the search for answers maybe only God has. She is eager to know life and the role that God plays in it. The amicable yet profound letters between them are the start of a love story so mesmerizing that it carries you through nearly 400 pages of one of the best romances of our lifetime. Yet C. S. Lewis is across the grand Atlantic Ocean. He lives and writes in Oxford, England, a place Joy dreams of visiting.

"Through the vibrant and emotional writing in BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, we witness an unlikely romance, especially for our current times, where two perfectly deserving people wait to totally know one another, and themselves, before embarking on a romantic relationship."

Joy may have a strong spirit, but her body isn’t as sturdy. Suffering from a thyroid condition and other aches and pains, she finds her health deteriorating rapidly. Doctors urge her to take a trip so she can heal. Her husband continues to go down the rabbit hole of alcoholism, and their financial troubles, a result of not selling writing, do not help relieve stress. Luckily, Joy’s cousin Renee, escaping her own troubled marriage, has come to live with them and convinces Joy to take that trip across the seas. Leaving her family behind to regain her strength and complete research for a historical novel that may bring income, she embarks on a journey to England. The moment she steps off that ship, she’s a woman no longer silenced, one who has the world in the palm of her hand. This trip is more than a book, or a respite from troubles --- it’s the beginning of a lifelong journey of friendship and love.

The moment we come face to face with C. S. Lewis --- who asks to be called Jack, after his deceased dog --- we are enthralled by him. Jack leaps off the page as a genuine and profoundly intelligent and creative character who we wish would sweep Joy into his arms and save her from her troubles, but we are forced to wait. All great stories do not unfold in our timing. Joy, once a perfectionist who was never good enough for her father, found her worth in men. Yet this love is real, and for it to mature as the purest kind, Joy must find herself, and Jack has to tear down the walls around his heart. Every time Joy and Jack part, he asks to see her again. Little by little, they expose their entire worlds to one another. There’s a meeting of the minds and hearts. Jack invites Joy to his home at the Kilns that he shares with his brother, Warnie, who has grown to love Joy as a sister. They are a blossoming family.

When Joy receives a letter from her husband that he has fallen in love, she is devastated. Jack, repulsed by Bill’s narcissism, tells Joy she cannot go back to that horrid home. Joy has a picture in her mind: she will return to England, but with her two sons. She hopes to save her marriage, but instead her husband chokes her. Renee is in tears, desperately wanting to be with Bill. We hope Joy will do the right thing for her future, and she does. Putting fear of the unknown aside, she files for divorce, takes her children and leaves again for the UK.

We are continually touched by Jack’s kindness and generosity. Joy finds the most trusted friend in him. He introduces her to his literary acquaintances, friends and family. He even pays for her sons to attend boarding school. Yet Joy does not want Jack’s money or connections. She longs for his companionship. He is a mirror for her, and thus she learns more about herself through him, her weaknesses and strengths. Joy and Jack become so close that we question how their relationship has not turned physical. For many years, not even a kiss passes between their lips, even when the chemistry between them is palpable. Whenever they get close, he pulls away. A devout Christian, Jack is hesitant to follow his carnal impulses as in the past they have led to much heartache. In the end, Jack learns the hard way that true love cannot be defined within a set of rules, that the heart has no rhyme or reason, and that even as an older man, he has found a love he wants to hold onto and never let slip away.

Through the vibrant and emotional writing in BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, we witness an unlikely romance, especially for our current times, where two perfectly deserving people wait to totally know one another, and themselves, before embarking on a romantic relationship. C. S. Lewis, a timeless literary figure, is brought before our very eyes as a multidimensional man who knows no bounds when it comes to helping those he loves. We are glad he has found love in Joy Davidman, as her intellect and passion are a match for him, and we cherish seeing the unique ways in which, through faith, their love becomes eternal.

Reviewed by Bianca Ambrosio on October 5, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis
by Patti Callahan Henry, writing as Patti Callahan

  • Publication Date: October 2, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN-10: 0785224505
  • ISBN-13: 9780785224501