Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785224501
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,123
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Patti Callahan (who also writes as Patti Callahan Henry) is a New York Times bestselling author. Patti was a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, has been an Indie Next Pick, twice an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her work has also been included in short story collections, anthologies, magazines, and blogs. Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina, with her husband. Visit her online at patticallahanhenry.com; Instagram: pattichenry; Facebook: AuthorPattiCallahanHenry; Twitter: @pcalhenry.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Begin again, must I begin again Who have begun so many loves in fire

"Sonnet I ," Joy Davidman

1946 Ossining, New York

There are countless ways to fall in love, and I'd begun my ash-destined affairs in myriad manners. This time, it was marriage.

The world, it changes in an instant. I've seen it over and over, the way in which people forge through the days believing they have it all figured out, protected inside a safe life. Yet there is no figuring life out, or not in any way that protects us from the tragedies of the heart. I should have known this by now; I should have been prepared.

"Joy." Bill's voice through the telephone line came in a voice so shaky I thought he might have been in a car wreck or worse. "I'm coming undone again and I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go."

"Bill." I hugged the black plastic phone against my ear and shoulder, the thick cord dangling, as I bounced our baby son, Douglas, against my chest. "Take a deep breath. You're fine. It's just the old fear. You're not in the war. You're safe."

"I'm not fine, Joy. I can't take it anymore." Panic broke his voice into fragments, but I understood. I could talk him off this ledge as I had other nights. He might get drunk as hell before it was all over, but I could calm him.

"Come home, Poogle. Come on home." I used the nickname we had for each other and our children, like a birdcall.

"I'm not coming home, Joy. I'm not sure I ever will."

"Bill!" I thought he might have hung up, but then I heard his labored breathing, in and out as if someone were squeezing the life out of him. And then the long, shrill, disconnected buzz vibrated like a tuning fork in my ear and down to my heart, where my own fear sat coiled and ready to strike.

"No!" I shouted into the empty line.

I knew Bill's office number by heart and I called him back again and again, but it rang endlessly while I mumbled a mantra: "Answer answer answer." As if I had any control from where I stood in our kitchen, my back pressed against the lime-green linoleum counter. Finally I gave up. There was nothing left for me to do. I couldn't leave our babies and go look for him. He'd taken the car and I didn't have help. I had no idea where he might be other than a bar, and in New York City there were hundreds.

Isolated, I had only myself to blame. I was the one who'd pushed for a move from the city to this banished and awful place far from my literary friends and publishing contacts. I'd begun to believe that I'd never been a poet, or a novelist, a friend or lover, never existed as anything other than wife and mother. Moving here had been my meager attempt to whisk Bill away from an affair with a blonde in Manhattan. Desperation fuels one to believe idiocy is insight.

Was he with another woman and merely feigning a breakdown? This didn't seem too farfetched, and yet even his lunacy had its limits.

Or maybe it didn't.

Our house in the Hudson Valley at the far edge of the suburb of Ossining, New York, was a small wooden abode we called Maple Lodge. It had a sloping roof and creaked with every movement our little family made: Bill; Davy, a toddler who was much like a runaway atom bomb; and Douglas, a baby. It often felt as if the foundation itself was coming undone with our restlessness. I was thirty-one years old, surrounded by books, two cats, and two sons, and I felt as ancient as the house itself.

I missed my friends, the hustle and bustle of the city, the publishing parties and literary gossip. I missed my neighbors. I missed myself.

Night surrounded my sons and me, darkness pressing in on the windowpanes with an ominous weight. Douglas, with his mass of brown curls and apple cheeks, dozed with a warm bottle of milk dangling from his mouth while Davy dragged toy trucks across the hardwood floors, oblivious to the scratches they dug.

Panic coursed through me as I roamed the house, waiting for word from Bill. I cursed. I ranted. I banged my fist into the soft cushions of our tattered couch. Once I'd fed and bathed the boys, I rang my parents and a couple of friends — they hadn't heard from him. How long would he be gone? What if we ran out of food? We were miles from the store.

"Calm down," I told myself over and over. "He's had breakdowns before." This was true, and the specter of another always hung over our home. I hadn't been there for his worst one, after a stint in the Spanish Civil War before we met, when he'd attempted what I was frightened of now — suicide. The leftover traumas of war rattling and snaking through his psyche had become too much to bear.

As if I could cure the panic from this distance, I imagined Bill as I met him — the passionate young man who sauntered into the League of American Writers with his lanky frame and the wide smile hooded by a thick moustache. I'd immediately been drawn to his bravery and idealism, a man who'd volunteered and fought where needed in a faraway and torn country. Later I fell deeper in love with the same charming man I heard playing the guitar at music haunts in Greenwich Village.

Our passion overwhelmed me, stunned me in its immediacy as our bodies and minds found each other. Although he was married when we met, he had reassured me: "It was never anything real. It's nothing like you and me." We married at the MacDowell artists colony three days after his divorce was final — symbolizing our bond and dedication to our craft. Two writers. One marriage. One life. Now it was that very passion and idealism that tore at him, unhinging his mind and driving him back to the bottle.

Near midnight I stood over the crib of our baby, my heart hammering in my chest. There was nothing, not one thing I could do to save my husband. My bravado crumbled; my ego crashed.

I took in what was quite possibly the first humble breath of my life and dropped to my knees with such force that the hardwood floor sent a jolt of pain up my legs. I bowed my head, tears running into the corners of my mouth as I prayed for help.

I was praying! To God?

I didn't believe in God. I was an atheist.

But there I was on my knees.

In a crack of my soul, during the untethered fear while calling for help, the sneaky Lion saw his chance, and God came in; he entered the fissures of my heart as if he'd been waiting a long time to find an opening. Warmth fell over me, a river of peace passed through me. For the first time in all my life, I felt fully known and loved. There was a solid sense that he was with me, had always been with me.

The revelation lasted not long, less than a minute, but also forever; time didn't exist as a moment-to-moment metronome, but as eternity. I lost the borders between my body and the air, between my heart and my soul, between fear and peace. Everything in me thrummed with loving presence.

My heart slowed and the tears stopped. I bent forward and rested my wet cheek on the floor. "Why have you waited so long? Why have I?" I rested in the silence and then asked, "Now what?"

He didn't answer. It wasn't like that — there wasn't a voice, but I did find the strength to stand, to gaze at my children with gratitude, to wait for what might come next.

God didn't fix anything in that moment, but that wasn't the point of it all. Still I didn't know where Bill was, and still I was scared for his life, but Someone, my Creator it seemed, was there with me in all of it. This Someone was as real as my sons in their beds, as the storm battering the window frames, as my knees on the hardwood floors.

Finally, after wandering the streets and drinking himself into a stupor, Bill stumbled into a cab that brought him back to us just before dawn. When he walked through the front door, I held his face in my hands, smelled the rancid liquor, and told him that I loved him and that I now knew there was a God who loved us both, and I promised him that we would find our way together.

* * *

As the years passed, our coffee table became littered with history and philosophy books, with religious texts and pamphlets, but still we didn't know how to make sense of an experience I knew had been as real as my heartbeat. If there was a God, and I was straight sure that there was, how did he appear in the world? How was I to approach him, if at all? Or was the experience nothing more than a flicker of understanding that didn't change anything? This wasn't a religious conversion at all; it was merely an understanding that something greater existed. I wanted to know more. And more.

One spring afternoon, after we'd moved to a rambling farmhouse in Staatsburg, New York, a three-year-old 1946 Atlantic Monthly magazine was facedown on the kitchen table and being used as a coaster for Bill's coffee mug. I slid the mug to the side and flipped through the magazine as our sons napped. The pages flopped open to an article by a Beloit College professor named Chad Walsh. The piece was titled "Apostle to the Skeptics" and was an in-depth study of an Oxford fellow in England, a man named C. S. Lewis who was a converted atheist. Of course I'd heard of the author, had even read his Pilgrim's Regress and The Great Divorce — both of them holding a whispered truth I was merely beginning to see. I began to peruse the article, and it was only Douglas calling my name that startled me from the story of this author and teacher who'd reached American readers with his clear and lucid writing, his logic and intellectualism.

Soon I'd read everything Lewis had written — more than a dozen books, including a thin novel of such searing satire that I found myself drawn again and again to its wisdom hidden in story: The Screwtape Letters.

"Bill." I held up Lewis's book I was rereading, The Great Divorce, over dinner one night, as the boys twirled their spaghetti. "Here is a man who might help us with some of our questions."

"Could be," he mumbled, lighting a cigarette before dinner was over, leaning back in his chair to stare at me through his rimless spectacles. "Although, Poogle, I'm not sure anyone has the answers we need."

Bill was cold hard correct — believing in a god hadn't been as simple as all that. Every philosophy and religion had a take on the deity I hadn't been able to grasp. I was set to give up the search, shove the shattering God-experience into my big box of mistakes. That is, until I contacted Professor Walsh, the writer of the article, and said, "Tell me about C. S. Lewis."

Professor Walsh had visited Lewis in Oxford and spent time with him. He was turning his articles into a book with the same title and he replied to me. "Write to Mr. Lewis," he suggested. "He's an avid letter writer and loves debate."

There Bill and I were — three years after my blinding night of humbleness, three years of reading and study, of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and debate, of joining the Presbyterian church, when an idea was born: we would write a letter to C. S. Lewis, a letter full of our questions, our ponderings, and our doubts about the Christ he apparently believed in.

CHAPTER 2

Open your door, lest the belated heart Die in the bitter night; open your door

"Sonnet XLIV," Joy Davidman

1950

Didn't most everything begin with words? In the beginning was the word — even the Bible touted that truth. So it was with my friendship with Lewis.

I descended from my second-story office in our farmhouse into the frigid January day to grab the mail. Two separate trains of thought ran along the tracks of my mind: What would I cook the family for dinner? And how would my second novel, Weeping Bay, be received into the world in a few months?

Frosted grass crunched under my boots as I strode to the mailbox and opened it. As I flipped through the pile, my heart beat in double time. On top of the pile of bills, correspondence, and a Presbyterian Life magazine was a letter from Oxford, England. I held the white envelope with the airmail stamp of a young King George in profile, his crown hovering over his head, in my hand. In slanted, tight cursive handwriting the return address stated C. S. Lewis across the top left corner.

He'd finally written a reply. I ran my gloved finger across his name, and hope rose like an early spring flower in my chest. I needed his advice — my life felt unhinged from the new beliefs I'd thought would save me, and C. S. Lewis knew the Truth. Or I hoped he did.

I slammed shut the metal box, icicles crackling to the ground, and slipped the mail into my coat pocket to navigate the icy walkway. My sons' quarrelling voices made me glance at our white farmhouse and the porch that stretched across the front — an oasis before entering. Green shutters, like eye shadow on a pale woman, opened to reveal the soul of the house, once pure but now clouded with anger and frustration.

The front door was open, and four-year-old Douglas came running out with Davy, age six, chasing close behind.

"It's mine. Give it back." Davy, only an inch taller than his little brother, brown hair tangled from the day's wrestling and playing, yelled and pushed at Douglas until they both caught sight of me and stopped short, as if I'd appeared out of nowhere.

"Mommy." Douglas ran to me, wrapping his arms around my soft hips and burying his face in the folds of my coat. "Davy kicked me in the shin," he wailed. "Then he pushed me on the ground and sat on me. He sat on me too hard."

Oh, how God loved to make a variety of boys.

I leaned down and brushed back Douglas's hair to kiss his round cheek. In moments like this my heart throbbed with love for the boys Bill and I had made. Davy's lithe body and frenetic energy were from Bill, but Douglas's sensitivity to mean-spiritedness was mine. He'd not yet learned to cover it as I had.

"This is all nonsense." I rustled Davy's hair and took Douglas's hand in mine. "Let's go inside and make hot chocolate."

"Yes," Davy said with gusto and ran for the house.

All the while the letter burned in my pocket. Wait, I told myself. Wait. Expectancy always the thrill before having.

Davy flew through the front door, but not before riling Topsy, who now barked as if to warn us of a monstrous intruder.

"Be quiet, you fluffy mongrel," I called out, "or you'll make me sorry I ever rescued you." I stepped over a pile of toy trucks in the foyer with Topsy fast at my heels. By this time in our lives we'd gathered a menagerie of animals — four cats, two dogs, a bird, and now Davy wanted a snake.

Bill was in his refurbished attic office, typing as fast as his fingers knew how, working on his second novel to pay the bills, which were piling as high as the snow would soon be. The shouting and barking and bedlam must have stirred him from his typewriter, for suddenly there he stood at the bottom of the stairwell.

Douglas cowered, and I reached for his hand. "Don't worry," I said softly. "Daddy won't yell. He's feeling better."

Bill's hands were limp at his side in a posture of defeat. At six foot three inches, my husband often gave me the impression of a reedy tree. His thick, dark hair was swept to the left side like an undulating wave that had collapsed. He was sober now, and his verbal lashings had subsided. AA was doing its job with the Twelve Steps, spiritual sayings, and group accountability.

He pointed at the spilled basket of library books beside the door, then pushed up on his rimless glasses. "You could pick all of that up, you know."

"I know, sweetie. I will."

I darted a glance at him. His blue button-down shirt was wrinkled and misbuttoned by one. His blue jeans were loose on him; he'd lost weight over the past months of stress. I meanwhile had gained — so much for life being fair.

"I was trying to write, Joy. To get something done in a house so full of disarray I can scarcely focus."

"Dogs. Kids." I tried to smile at him. "What a combination." I walked into the kitchen. I wanted to defuse any anger — the argument that could ensue would be a repeat of a thousand other quarrels, and I wasn't in the mood. I had a letter, a glimmer of hope in my pocket.

Davy climbed onto a chair and sat at the splintered wooden table and folded his hands to wait. I shook off my coat and draped it on a hook by the door, placing the mail on the kitchen table. Except for the letter. I wanted to read it first. Wanted something to be just mine if only for a small while. I slipped off my gloves and shoved them into the pockets to conceal it. With bare hands I dug into the dirty dishes piled in the sink — another reminder of my inadequacies as a housekeeper — and found the saucepan, crusted with tomato soup from the night before.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Becoming Mrs. Lewis"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Patti Callahan.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Becoming Mrs. Lewis: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Cynthia181 10 months ago
I received a copy of this book from the Fiction Guild, I was not required to give a favorable review. This story was a story of love, friendship and deep understanding that God does come to those who look for it. Joy Davidman Grisham started writing letters to C.S. Lewis while living in New York with her ex-husband and her children. She was a writer and poet, so was her husband, she was born Jewish but became an atheist but when things got really bad with her husband one night after putting her children to bed and received a phone call from her husband she prayed and one of their close friends had met Lewis while he was in England. The corresponded for year and she finally was able to take the time to travel to meet him while working on a new book she was writing. But her ex-husband was a cheater and decided to fall for her cousin while she was gone. So she made the ultimate decision and that was to divorce her husband which was not looked on favorable during that time and took her boys to England. Her friendship with Jack and his brother Weinie was something that kept her going but she was falling in love with him, but said he coudn't love. But things changed and they were able to live through her suffering from cancer and his osteoperosis. And kept the boys from ever having to go back to America to be with the dad. They did marry in the church. I loved this story very much.
LucyMR1 10 months ago
I loved parts of this book and other parts seemed to drag and I would lose interest, but something about it compelled me to keep reading. I was bothered by the amount of alcohol that was consumed and wondered if C.S. Lewis and Joy actually drank that often. It was refreshing to see the real life struggles that Joy faced and came out stronger because of the faith she found. She led an interesting life after meeting Jack and her love for him must have been based on the deep respect she had for him. I enjoyed reading about the their developing relationship and even though I knew how it ended I still needed a tissue. I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
bookstoregal 10 months ago
A well-written book of the adult life of Joy Davidman/Gresham/Lewis. It's a book full of sadness, but also of hope. Joy went from being an atheist to being sold out for Christ. This book is very much a romance, which is not really my kind of book, but it's also a book of searching for Christ and growing in Him. Joy was an intelligent woman. My favorite chapter is chapter 44, but don't go and read that without reading the rest of the book! HaHa. :). I also really love the cover of this book! It has quite a few "cuss" words, and lots of alcohol consumption, for any who might have a problem with that... Also, though there are no "sex scenes" as such, some of Joy's thoughts, etc., may not be appropriate for younger readers. Overall, a very interesting book. It kept my attention, even though I had already read some books on C.S. Lewis. This is the first book I've read by this author. She did a lot of research for this book! I received an Advance Reader copy of this book, so that I could write a review. Thank you
BookReviewerTG 11 months ago
This is a beautiful hardback book. Oh, there is just something about having a hardback book in your hands and turning the pages to read a great story. It's like love at first sight. I loved the stories that C.S. Lewis penned....Narnia! But to be honest I have never thought of him being married. So this story was one for the books. It is such an interesting story! Joy Davidson is looking for spiritual answers so she begins writing to Mr. Lewis. But she uses the name Jack. She isn't looking for romance and she wants answers to faith. Like C.S. Lewis she is a converted atheists so a mutual friend encourages her to write to C.S. Lewis. It's a bit of a sad story...to me. Joy is a divorcee and decides to take an extended visit to England to visit C.S. Lewis and his brother. Joy heads home. Once there she is faced with failing health and poverty. She again heads to England where her visa will not be renewed. C.S. Lewis tells her he will marry her, as a friend only, so that she may stay in England. This is where the romance begins.... A must read book for all fans of C.S. Lewis! *This book was provided for review by The Fiction Guild*
Book_and_recipe_Examiner More than 1 year ago
Joy wants to live every day as if it it filled with wonder, not exhausted by the chores of maintaining a house and being a wife and mother. Her mind is filled with questions about God and Christianity, and what to do about her alcoholic, cheating husband, which she formulates into poetry and essays. Then, fatefully, through her husband, also a writer, she contacts the famous author C.S. Lewis and begins a lifetime of correspondence and intellectual and spiritual debate. Their friendship guides her out of darkness and helps her find purpose and answers to many, though not all, of her life’s questions, and inspires her seek the truth and to write more. While the excessive use of direct address can be rather distracting, and sometimes the inner dialogue a bit repetitive, this fictional account also contains a very honest, very human narration of the mental battle of doubts and faith. Joy is portrayed as very human; at times, uncomfortably so, when the book particularly crosses the line in a sexualized moment with Mr. Lewis. Not that either character is a prude. But some of these elements detract from, rather than add to the power of their story. However, the longing Joy has for “Jack” (Lewis) is very evident, if dragged out to the point of frustration, but this is probably the author's aim as the novel builds to a climactic ending. This is a book for romantics, not precise biographers or historians. Ultimately it is a story about a woman finding God's grace, in relationships, in pain, in circumstances, and even in her faith, as it conquers her misconceptions of a wrathful God and displaces fears with peace she finds, in life and with death.
Jennybug52 24 days ago
4 stars- This was the first book I’ve read by this author. I admit the sheer size of this book seemed a bit daunting at first, but I was intrigued by the subject. I enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as a child but didn’t really know much about his personal life. It’s amazing how God works things out according to His plan, even when it seems improbable, if not impossible. Joy Davidman’s life was not easy and the story of how God led her to C.S. Lewis and ultimately love made for an endearing tale. She was a strong woman that found an unlikely match in C.S. Lewis, or Jack as she called him. It was interesting to read snippets from their many letters and see their intellectual and spiritual relationship grow across the span of an ocean and several years. How amazing would it be to have a spiritual giant such as C.S. Lewis be your pen pal and help answer all of your questions about God? This was a touching story with a bittersweet ending that I would recommend. Now I feel the strong urge to watch “Shadowlands” and learn even more. I received a copy of this book for free. I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.
SemmieWise 27 days ago
Patti Callahan’s historical fiction novel, “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” is the beautifully brilliant telling of the life of Joy Davidman Gresham, the woman who would one day capture the heart and mind of C.S. Lewis. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” reveals the life of Joy — an author, converted Jew, former atheist and ex-Communist — in four parts plus a prologue from her childhood visits to the lions at the Bronx Zoo: her life in America with first husband Bill Gresham, an abusive and philandering man who was also an author, and the time she began a correspondence with Lewis to seek answers about her conversion experience; 1952 England, where she meets Lewis, and seeks healing for her ailing body, mind and soul; a return to America in 1953, where she gets the fortitude to break from her husband, who is now in a relationship with her cousin; and England starting in November 1953, where, as she puts it, “Life is ahead” and her relationship with Lewis grows. Callahan does an amazing job of taking her research and bringing us into the life of Joy and Jack, as his friends called him, and developing a beautiful story of how their friendship and eventually love grew, and how they faced Joy’s cancer at the height of their love. Sadly, their letters to each other have been destroyed, but the author does a great job of recreating how their letters and dialogues may have read, and the thoughts and feelings behind them. As a matter fact, this whole novel reads as if Joy herself had written it. Joy’s story is so well written you will feel as if you are walking along beside her on her journey. This story takes you deep into her heart and soul. She is such a strong character, but yet has very real flaws, fears and weaknesses. Besides deeply engrossing the reader into Joy’s life, Callahan has such a beautifully descriptive way of writing at times: “The line of poetry was blown away by his voice, a fragile dandelion pod now empty and scattered;” “…the peace of that trip had fallen away like a waterfall, down a river far gone;” and “The plumbing, ancient and groaning like one of Jack’s fictional frozen statues come to life.” This book is filled with so many goodies, life lessons if you will, like why do we wait so long to seek God; seeking answers only God can provide; uncertainty is the cross God always gives us in life; dismissal versus acceptance; we ache for what’s familiar when there is something better out there; God has enough grace for us all; faith, prayers and belief; and being a Christian is not about rules and regulations but trust, surrender and transformation. Love, of course, is a huge theme of “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” — love of God, love of one’s self, and love for fellow man. As you travel with Joy, each chapter begins with a quote from one of the writers, mostly from Joy’s recently discovered sonnets, revealing even more of her heart. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” is, quite simply, a fantastic book. Probably one of the best for 2018. As a lover of C.S. Lewis, particularly all things Narnia, I loved peeking behind the curtain to see into the mind of the brilliant writer, and into the mind of his muse — a woman I knew a little about, but not a lot. Five stars out of five. Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
SemmieWise 27 days ago
Patti Callahan’s historical fiction novel, “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” is the beautifully brilliant telling of the life of Joy Davidman Gresham, the woman who would one day capture the heart and mind of C.S. Lewis. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” reveals the life of Joy — an author, converted Jew, former atheist and ex-Communist — in four parts plus a prologue from her childhood visits to the lions at the Bronx Zoo: her life in America with first husband Bill Gresham, an abusive and philandering man who was also an author, and the time she began a correspondence with Lewis to seek answers about her conversion experience; 1952 England, where she meets Lewis, and seeks healing for her ailing body, mind and soul; a return to America in 1953, where she gets the fortitude to break from her husband, who is now in a relationship with her cousin; and England starting in November 1953, where, as she puts it, “Life is ahead” and her relationship with Lewis grows. Callahan does an amazing job of taking her research and bringing us into the life of Joy and Jack, as his friends called him, and developing a beautiful story of how their friendship and eventually love grew, and how they faced Joy’s cancer at the height of their love. Sadly, their letters to each other have been destroyed, but the author does a great job of recreating how their letters and dialogues may have read, and the thoughts and feelings behind them. As a matter fact, this whole novel reads as if Joy herself had written it. Joy’s story is so well written you will feel as if you are walking along beside her on her journey. This story takes you deep into her heart and soul. She is such a strong character, but yet has very real flaws, fears and weaknesses. Besides deeply engrossing the reader into Joy’s life, Callahan has such a beautifully descriptive way of writing at times: “The line of poetry was blown away by his voice, a fragile dandelion pod now empty and scattered;” “…the peace of that trip had fallen away like a waterfall, down a river far gone;” and “The plumbing, ancient and groaning like one of Jack’s fictional frozen statues come to life.” This book is filled with so many goodies, life lessons if you will, like why do we wait so long to seek God; seeking answers only God can provide; uncertainty is the cross God always gives us in life; dismissal versus acceptance; we ache for what’s familiar when there is something better out there; God has enough grace for us all; faith, prayers and belief; and being a Christian is not about rules and regulations but trust, surrender and transformation. Love, of course, is a huge theme of “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” — love of God, love of one’s self, and love for fellow man. As you travel with Joy, each chapter begins with a quote from one of the writers, mostly from Joy’s recently discovered sonnets, revealing even more of her heart. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” is, quite simply, a fantastic book. Probably one of the best for 2018. As a lover of C.S. Lewis, particularly all things Narnia, I loved peeking behind the curtain to see into the mind of the brilliant writer, and into the mind of his muse — a woman I knew a little about, but not a lot. Five stars out of five. Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
KendraNeal 30 days ago
I have been a fan of C.S. Lewis for a long while, since my Teen years. I was really excited to be able to read this book. Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a fictional novel but it really seems like it could be a true to life story. I was immediately drawn into the story of "Joy and Jack" and their PenPal friendship. Joy's writings to Jack would lead to a deeper story and eventually to LOVE for each. The 2 had a common interest in that they were both accomplished writers and their letters really showed that deep interest of writing. I really enjoyed reading about how their meeting each other for the first time was not by accident, but very intentional through Joy's determination. LOVE will sure make you do amazing things! I really enjoy Historical Fiction as it takes me back in time and I also feel that I am learning something as I read. Becoming Mrs. Lewis really taught me a LOT. Patti Callahan is an AMAZING writer and really knows how to keep the readers interest at all times! GREAT BOOK!
PianoLady831 3 months ago
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan is a compelling book, one that I learned a lot from and greatly enjoyed in the process. I have long admired C. S. Lewis – his conversion, creative writing, and the intellect with which he defends the faith – but knew next to nothing about him personally, other than that he and Joy Davidman shared a deep love and that A Grief Observed was written after her death. Becoming Mrs. Lewis fleshes out these two people in a realistic and honest way that I found refreshing. A large part of this story rests on the foundation of vast correspondence between Lewis and Davidman, of which none is actually available today. But in drawing from many other sources, the author has done an incredible job in piecing together what their lives might have been like. This story is historical fiction, yet often has the feel of a memoir. Callahan has beautifully captured the feel of the times in which they lived, and I loved that the characters’ flaws and failings were not glossed over. In getting to know Joy Davidman, I also came to know C. S. Lewis, the man (Jack). Callahan mentions some historical events along the way, giving a great sense of place and time. One of my favorite parts was a glimpse into the inspiration and background behind the writing of some of Lewis’s books, such as Screwtape Letters and the Wormwood character, which came out of World War II. Joy, while trying to make a go of a difficult marriage, considered herself an atheist when God entered her life. Her story is one of trust, surrender, and transformation – but often taking a step or two backward in failure – and that reflects the human nature that I experience personally. Becoming Mrs. Lewis might not appeal to every reader of Christian fiction, for in its openness and honesty of this couple’s lives, you will find the mention of abusive behavior, affairs, and alcohol, both social and abusive. Personally, I enjoyed Callahan’s writing style and creativity in bringing these two people to life. Jack and Joy brought out the best in each other and had a positive influence on each other’s writing, allowing me to read Lewis’s works with fresh eyes. Recommended. I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Kelly Hodgkins 3 months ago
“From the very beginning it was the Great Lion who brought us together. I see that now. The fierce and tender beast drew us to each other, slowly, inexorably, across time, beyond an ocean, and against the obdurate bulwarks of our lives. He wouldn’t make it easy for us – that’s not his way.” - Opening lines of Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan Patti Callahan writes Becoming Mrs Lewis from the first-person biographical perspective of Joy Davidman who, over several years, goes from pen pal to wife of the famous C.S. Lewis. The letters focus on the journey from atheism to Christianity as Joy works through the life difficulties of living out the Word. Much of her world in America is broken, her marriage and the economy included. C.S. Lewis, known as Jack, walks her through scriptures and offers friendship. Their connection deepens and develops into an in-person friendship and, finally, marriage. Knowing all this before the book began, I hoped to gain insight into the discussions they had on Christianity, on being authors and on overcoming life’s challenges. I didn’t anticipate the intense descriptions and the moment by moment account of Joy’s day to day life. I’m not one who particularly enjoys this style of storytelling but, if it appeals to you, this is a well-written one. Joy’s life has very little joy and light in it, even in the end with Jack, so I found the story meandering and depressing. Bearing that in mind, I can only give it a three out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale,
Kelly Hodgkins 3 months ago
“From the very beginning it was the Great Lion who brought us together. I see that now. The fierce and tender beast drew us to each other, slowly, inexorably, across time, beyond an ocean, and against the obdurate bulwarks of our lives. He wouldn’t make it easy for us – that’s not his way.” - Opening lines of Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan Patti Callahan writes Becoming Mrs Lewis from the first-person biographical perspective of Joy Davidman who, over several years, goes from pen pal to wife of the famous C.S. Lewis. The letters focus on the journey from atheism to Christianity as Joy works through the life difficulties of living out the Word. Much of her world in America is broken, her marriage and the economy included. C.S. Lewis, known as Jack, walks her through scriptures and offers friendship. Their connection deepens and develops into an in-person friendship and, finally, marriage. Knowing all this before the book began, I hoped to gain insight into the discussions they had on Christianity, on being authors and on overcoming life’s challenges. I didn’t anticipate the intense descriptions and the moment by moment account of Joy’s day to day life. I’m not one who particularly enjoys this style of storytelling but, if it appeals to you, this is a well-written one. Joy’s life has very little joy and light in it, even in the end with Jack, so I found the story meandering and depressing. Bearing that in mind, I can only give it a three out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale,
Erin_Slocum 4 months ago
Have a peak at a brand new read! Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a great new book shedding another light on the popular author C.S. Lewis and his less known wife. Our family are huge fans of the writings of C. S. Lewis so I was greatly excited to get a chance to read this book! I received a hardback copy so that I could read and review this great book. The book is 405 pages long. Oh but the inside book cover, it's astounding. It's astonishing. I'm in love with it! It reminds me of the maps and illustrations in the Narnia series. Oh guys. I've read biographies of Lewis. I know of his life, his works, but I didn't know the story of his wife or her life before Lewis. This book is fantastic. I really didn't ever want to put it down, but I needed to. That put down time is needed to digest everything that you learn and read. There is so much meat in this story. Talk of love but more importantly or redemption. This book shows the nitty gritty and the hard. So much life had to be overcome for Joy, she had so much she had to come to terms with. I'm in awe. At first I was in shock. C. S. Lewis is a larger than life persona. But his wife. She's a real person. Probably a person that a lot of Christians today would shun if they knew all this. Whew. It's something. Most importantly though it's a story of redemption and finding out who she was meant to be. Being pushed to overcome and know who God is in a way that sometimes people don't seem to want. All in all I'm still digesting. I'm probably going to have to read this book again. It will definitely remain on my library shelf. However, it's not one that I'll be letting my teenage daughter read just yet.
Sprinkle23 4 months ago
I enjoyed reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Though the story was long, the beautiful writing style had me so invested in the characters that the plot didn't drag. The detailed descriptions of England, particularly Oxford, made me want to visit. Joy is a complex and authentic character, perhaps a bit too realistic for some readers. She is flawed and didn't always make wise decisions. I did not care for Joy's blatant sexual desire for Jack (C. S. Lewis) as it was over done. Though there is no erotica, I started cringing after a bit at the repetitious statements about wanting him. Joy does have insights about her behavior and desires later on in the story, but I'm not sure it fully redeems the past actions and intentions. It's reality and life experience portrayed authentically on the page. I did like the author's treatment of the characters' faith journeys. Both Joy and Jack have this organic faith that is full of honesty about life's struggles, spiritual doubt, and searching for peace with God. Joy's heart, in particular, is laid bare throughout the story and one of my favorite moments was Chapter 44 when she has a great insight and prays, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away.” Toward the end, Jack seems to become more philosophical, but as this book covers at least a decade, perhaps that simply reflects life's changes. Though I've read lots of Christian fiction in the last ten years, I've not read any books by C. S. Lewis. I do know that he is a revered figure in Christianity for his non-fiction books and the Christian themes in his fiction. Other than the author's note at the back, I have no knowledge as to how closely Becoming Mrs. Lewis adheres to the reality of their relationship. This novel does not sanitize him as some have perhaps done. There is frequent drinking and smoking in the novel. Mild, but unnecessary, profanity is occasionally present, no f-bombs. I recommend Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan to readers interested in Joy Davidman, C. S. Lewis, or their relationship. It is a biographical fiction novel with lots of spirituality, but a bit saltier than standard Christian fiction so I do recommend it for adults only. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous 4 months ago
I read this book not knowing anything about mrs. Lewis. After reading, I wanted to know much more about her, her children, and of course about Jack. I have now read it three times,Have enjoyed each time more than the last.
ShihTzuMama 8 months ago
This story of the five year correspondence between C.S. Lewis (he of Narnia fame) and American poet/writer Joy Davidman begins when Joy experiences the presence of a God she never believed in and writes to the well-known Christian apologist Lewis seeking answers to her many questions. Initially Christianity is their lodestone and their relationship is platonic until Davidson takes a six month trip to England, where she falls in love with the country as well as the man. The descriptive writing of Ms. Callahan will make reader’s want to hop on the first plane headed “across the pond” to experience the beauty first hand. In Becoming Mrs. Lewis, author Callahan walks a thin line as she lays out the couple’s relationship with family, friends and each other as well as their personal relationship with God. This is one of those books where readers looking for a romantic story may feel there is too much “religion” and those looking for Christian lit might want a little less of the romance. Overall, I thought Callahan did an excellent job of delivering a well-rounded study of the lives of two fascinating people. In the movie Shadowlands, which covered some of the same ground as this novel, Debra Winger and Anthony Hopkins portrayed Lewis and Davidson. Keep those Hollywood images in mind when you read BECOMING MRS. LEWIS. Afterward you may go to Wikipedia, as I did, where you will see pictures of the “real” couple which will prove to you that the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. That aside, I did love this book.
MelissaF 8 months ago
Joy is leading a life many of us lead. She is holding on to her marriage, all that she knows she should do, no matter the tatters it lies in. She hope for more, and better things. In God she finds hope, which is where we all should look. With that being said, I really wanted to love this novel, as all the reviews above say, but for me I couldn’t get lost in it. It was much too easy to put it down and walk away. It didn’t capture me the way I wanted it to. It’s unfortunate because I really was looking forward to devouring this book. As always, this is my opinion only and you can see above many others loved the book, it just wasn’t for me. A copy of this book was given to me. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Reading+with+a+book+club.+Easier+read+than+anticipated.
Faye_reviews 9 months ago
Poet and writer, Joy Davidman Gresham, is looking for spiritual answers and struggling day to day in her marriage to fellow writer Bill, when she first writes to C.S. Lewis "Jack". Jack and Joy develop a regular correspondence, their friendship spanning decades and the Atlantic Ocean. This book is an absolute masterpiece, telling of the improbable love story between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. This is the first book I've read by Ms. Callahan, she is a gifted writer, the words float off the page and seamlessly into my consciousness, she always seems to find the perfect verb or adjective that fits the tone and brings you right into the heat of moment. Joy is very self-aware, she is far from perfect, and at times feels far from God, she struggles with every human emotion, jealousy, fear, desire, and I loved how I got to see Jack through her eyes. Joy is a wife, mother, poet, writer, divorcee, Jew, former Atheist, Christian, amateur theologian, and more, her quick wit and writer's sensibilities, honesty and faith bring her and Jack together. Their unique friendship is a comfort and well of strength to each other through the years, they were able to share deep conversations and multiple topics--most especially literature. Overall, a magnificent read that lives up to and exceeds the tall expectations set by tackling the literary love of Jack and Joy. I'd read many books by C.S. Lewis before reading this book but hadn't known much of Joy Davidman, I immensely enjoyed the introduction to her works and snippets of her sonnets at the start of every chapter. An utterly fantastic read, the gravity of the characters, and how Ms. Callahan painted a picture of Jack and Joy that will forever influence how I think of them, she captures their wit, humor, honesty, faith, and convictions in a real, yet otherworldly way. A must read! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and testimonials in Advertising."
Anonymous 10 months ago
A love story in the most complete and purest fashion.
jacksonmomLV 10 months ago
"Whenever I believed I could not love him more, I did." This quote from Joy Davidman (which also perfectly describes my relationship with MY husband) shows her obsessive devotion to C. S. Lewis. A friendship begun in letters from Joy and her then-husband, Bill, escalated into a more personal correspondence, progressed to extended face-to-face visits in England, and eventually culminated in marriage. While I share her interest in Lewis and his varied writings, and I was drawn to this book like a moth to a flame, I just could not make myself like Joy herself. I found her self-absorbed and given over to sensuality. Her poetry was too mystical for my tastes, and her use of men, abhorrent. For a Christian, she seemed little interested in Scripture. And for someone so smart as to have entered college at 15 and graduated with a Master's degree by 20, she made some stupid choices. Joy left her family under the care of her beautiful and newly-divorced cousin for 5 months, claiming it would benefit everyone with "health, more stable finances, and vitality" while she toured England, then acted surprised when her philandering husband had an affair with said cousin. She missed her sons when she was overseas and said she would "never be without my boys again...no power from heaven or earth will keep me from them." Yet when they returned to England during the divorce, one of the first things she did was to put them in public (boarding) school. I just couldn't get over the feeling that Joy USED everyone and everything in her life for her own selfish ends. That said, Callahan has done a tremendous amount of research, and makes the up-and-down progress of the friendship between Jack and Joy come alive. Her brashness, his reticence, the constant dance of two supple minds and memories challenging each other - it's all beautiful. I was frequently mentally reviewing books by Lewis I'd enjoyed, and longing for another cup of tea. I could feel the fog on my face, smell the stacks of old books, hear the clink of mugs and glasses at the pubs. What a wordsmith she is! I appreciated this book because of the insights it gave me into Lewis's character more than Davidman's. That said, it is a wonderfully compelling book (even for those of us who don't write sestinas or sonnets!).
Anonymous 11 months ago
If you are a fan of C. S. Lewis, you'll appreciate Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. It is told in the voice of Joy Davidman Lewis and chronicles her journey through being a jewish immigrant, to atheist, to communist, to believer. While in a horrific marriage, Joy writes C. S. Lewis (Jack to his friends) looking for spiritual guidance. Their correspondence strengthens Joy and gives her the courage to find her voice. They seems to be of one mind as their friendship deepens. In this book, you will follow their relationship as it evolves from phila to eros, as Jack becomes a father-figure to her two sons. It is not a light romance. Be prepared to read through deep conversations and correspondence shared by Joy and Jack. It is worth the read.
Anonymous 11 months ago
This book, picked by the young millennial leader of our book club, left me on inspired to read it until I began. I love this book from the moment I read the first sentence. Perhaps it resonated with my life, I can't be sure of that. It was written in the most beautiful, compassionate I'm knowledgeable way that a good author introduces her subject to you. Who was Joy davidman? I'm sorry to say I have never heard of her until I began to read this book. By the end I was crying over her struggles, glorying in her J accomplishments and enjoying every paragraph of the book. I would recommend it 100% to anyone who chose to read it
Kayla_Stierwalt 12 months ago
After hearing some ladies in Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club discussing Becoming Mrs. Lewis, I knew I would enjoy it. A new friend of mine and I decided to read it, so I eagerly selected it as my first choice after joining BookLook. This historical fiction novel broadened my knowledge of C.S. Lewis, introduced me to his wife Joy and did not disappoint. As Joy points out everything starts with words and acknowledges even the bible shares this truth, and her deep friendship with C.S. Lewis, who goes by Jack, begins no differently. She seeks his advice as a new Christian convert, and their letter writing turns into a regular correspondence and later a personal friendship. As a Christian unsure of how to trust God amidst difficult circumstances at home, Joy captures a feeling many have experienced to some extent. She feels lost and unsure how to move forward while still honoring God’s expectations for her. Of course she also desires to feel loved and understood. Both Joy and Jack find a depth to their friendship than broadens their understanding of theology, themselves and life. This grounds their work together as well as the family they ultimately bond. This story delivers all I anticipated for a good novel about a historical figure who I wanted to know more. The inclusions of letters throughout the narrative gives it a personal feel, and that matches the closeness Jack and Joy feel to each other as they become best friends and work partners on books. Joy’s backstory gives a good understanding of her life and allows me to empathize with her plights. She makes a relatable character, and I find myself dreaming of going to England for some healing and writing inspiration myself. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live in England during that time, as Lewis regularly meets with Tolkien (Tollers to his friends) and other notable writers and periodically meets with Sayers, not to mention share his literature knowledge at Oxford and Cambridge. I would love to spend a day amongst such great minds! This book gives me a glimpse into two very neat lives and makes me appreciate their writing contributions. I recommend this book to anyone interested in C.S. Lewis. The writing might not hold the same level as Lewis’s, but the story does have depth that can add to your knowledge bank on such a neat figure. This isn’t my first read revolving around Lewis’s work, and it certainly won’t be the last.
teachlz 12 months ago
Linda's Book Obsession Reviews "Becoming Mrs. Lewis; The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis Thomas Nelson, Oct. 2, 2018 Patti Callan, Author of "Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, has written a thought-provoking and intriguing novel. The Genres for this book are a combination of  Historical Fiction and Fiction. The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. Joy Davidman, poet and writer starts questioning spiritual answers for things. She is unhappy in her marriage.  Joy starts corresponding with C.S. Lewis, the author of  "Narnia". C.S.Lewis , also known as Jack enthusiastically writes back to Joy. The two bond over letters, and Joy travels to England. Jack has been a bachelor, and lives with his brother.  When Joy returns to America, she finds betrayal by her husband, and is determined  to take her sons back to England with her. Joy finds her inspiration to write in England, and makes friends. Often Jack and Joy read each other's work, and sometimes, Joy will type up  Jack's stories. Joy lived at a time, where women were not as independent as today. She also voiced her opinions freely.  Joy was a mother, as well as an author and writer. This is a well written book about love of literature and seeking love. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Historical Fiction.