Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis

Written by Patti Callahan
Review by Clarissa Harwood

Many readers will know C.S. Lewis, beloved author of nonfiction Christian books and the Narnia children’s series. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, a deeply moving meditation on his grieving process after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, is my favorite of his works. The story of the unlikely romance between the Oxford English professor and the American divorcée is well known to Lewis fans, but Patti Callahan gives it a new spin, telling it brilliantly from Joy’s point of view.

I knew instantly from the pellucid prose and vivid physical details that I was in the hands of a master storyteller. I entered into Joy’s deepest feelings as she struggles in her unhappy first marriage, cares for two young sons, and begins a correspondence with Lewis (known to his friends as Jack). Joy and Jack experience a true meeting of the minds, understanding each other on an intellectual level (“your words help to clarify my own,” he writes) long before they meet in person. I was delighted to discover Joy’s poetry, snippets of which are quoted at the beginning of chapters, and to read the lively debates between her and Jack about everything from literature to the meaning of life.

The post-WWII years were not kind to women, especially women with the intellectual power of Joy Davidman. Early in the novel, Joy expresses the dilemma of all women of her era: “We were taught to dim our light so that men might shine, or at the very least look good… I want to find out who I am beyond all these expectations that fold us into a neat box.” Patti Callahan has inhabited her subject so convincingly that Joy’s light can finally shine brightly. Highly, highly recommended!