Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

Paperback, 2020


Checked out
Due 9 June 2024

Call number



Thomas Nelson (2020), Edition: Reprint, 448 pages


Fiction. Literature. Romance. Historical Fiction. HTML: Now a USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller! Meet the brilliant writer, fiercely independent mother, and passionate woman who captured the heart of C.S. Lewis and inspired the books that still enchant and change us today. When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis�??known as Jack�??she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn't holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford professor and the beloved writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, found a love that even the threat of death couldn't destroy. In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren't meant to have a voice�??and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn't know they had. At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer's life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story�??a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all. Praise for Becoming Mrs. Lewis: "Becoming Mrs. Lewis deftly explores the life and work of Joy Davidman, a bold and brilliant woman who is long overdue her time in the spotlight. Carefully researched. Beautifully written. Deeply romantic. Fiercely intelligent. It is both a meditation on marriage and a whopping grand adventure. Touching, tender, and triumphant, this is a love story for the ages." �??Ariel Lawhon, New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia "Patti Callahan Henry breathes wondrous fresh life into one of the greatest literary love stories of all time . . . The result is a deeply moving story about love and loss that is transformative and magical." �??Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale "It's novel. And it's a very good one. . . extraordinarily accurate. . . more accurate than most biographical essays that have been written about my mother." �??Douglas Gresham, son of Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis This expanded edition includes: Map of Oxford Expanded discussion guide with 20+ questions for book clubs Timeline of Jack's and Joy's Lives Joy's (imagined) letter to Jack 10 Things You May Not Know About Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis's Love Story Behind-the-scenes essay: Ox… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member gpangel
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan is a 2018 Thomas Nelson publication.

This book is the fictionalized version of the love story between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. I have been meaning to read this book for ages and have been wildly curious to see how Callahan approved the material.
While I did
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like the story, and appreciated the way Joy’s particular challenges were presented, I struggled to stay invested.

The relationship is fascinating, their initial correspondence very insightful, especially from Joy’s perspective as a woman trapped by poor health, a bad marriage, and the longing to write and pursue her career as a poet and writer.

I am familiar with C.S. Lewis, like most people, but I never studied his personal life. I was aware, vaguely, there was a tragic love story, but I knew nothing about Joy. Her story is a bit melancholy, no?

I am so happy she found her spiritual/Christian calling, which is quite a feat considering her background. I am also happy she found Lewis- who was a beacon to her as she navigated unfamiliar territory. I am also happy she found comfort and love after the years she spent in an unhappy and abusive relationship. I’m sorry though, that she never enjoyed the fullness of marriage with the man she loved, which, in my opinion was unnecessary, and I’m sorry her health was so fragile, and she died so young. Her characterization here, though, is terribly somber. The story is flat- bland, even, and I had to force myself to keep going at times. A book I thought would be inspirational, only left me feeling a little bereft, instead.

I was SO positive I was going to love this book, and am disappointed it didn’t grab me, as it has so many other people. I do have “Once Upon a Wardrobe” on my Kindle and will read it shortly. I’m sure I will have better luck with that one.

Overall, I am a little let-down I didn’t have the experience I was hoping for with this book- but I did like the book enough to give it a three- star rating- mostly based on the quality of the writing and that I learned a lot about Joy’s life and found her journey to be unique and interesting, if very sad.

3 stars
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LibraryThing member grammy57
I was very intrigued by the title and looked forward to reading this book. The story itself was interesting but the book was not to my taste at all. I did enjoy the ending the most, the story was less rambling then.

First, as a Christian book, there was swearing, drinking to excess, sex all
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inappropriate. Second, the story was too rambling. It was done in the first person with a lot of her letters and thoughts without much action. It also jumped years and you didn't realize it immediately. I skipped a lot of pages and did not feel like I missed anything. The story could have been told in about half the pages it is now. Third, it needs editing. This will be addressed in the final version I hope as I read an ARC version. Last, and this is more on a personal side, I did not see true conversion in Joy until the very end though she claims to have been saved/converted years before but her behavior is not that of a Christian in my view.

I give this 2 stars as some may enjoy the book, I did not. I would not recommend this to my friends.

In full disclosure, I was given an ARC version of the book upon my request to read and review. The review is totally my own opinion.
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LibraryThing member BookBuddies
I found this story quite enthralling and saw Joy Davidman as an intellectual who was repressed in her marriage and yearning for a life of the mind. Others thought that she was portrayed as a whiny, calculating pursuer of CSL. Several of us couldn't forgive her for leaving her children with an
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alcoholic father and another woman living in the same household. Since there is so little actual evidence surrounding the relationship between Joy and CSL, the book must be almost entirely fictional, which was frustrating to us.
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LibraryThing member Dabble58
I really wanted to like this book. Interesting topic, interesting people, etc- but I had to put it down in the end because it was badly written. Confusing location changes, inappropriate references (like a “queen-size bed”), etc that made me doubt the truth of anything that was written.
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Actually came here researching the author because I was finding it so troubling.
Needs editing, needs fact-checking, and despite my interest in the subject, I just can’t continue.
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LibraryThing member debs4jc
A fictionalized account of the life of Joy Davidman - the woman who eventually became the wife of C.S. Lewis. She was a writer and a poet, a mother, and when we first meet her she is the wife of an abusive, alcoholic husband. Joy begins her spiritual journey when she reaches out to God during a
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desperate moment when she is left alone by her husband, afraid that he might never come back. She begins to write to Lewis to see if he will answer some of her questions. At first she includes her husband but he becomes disinterested so she begins to write on her own, sharing some really deep matters of the soul with the famous author. Through many twists and turns in her personal life she eventually meets up with Lewis on a trip to England and then of course the book delves into how they eventually become more than friends - which was quite a long and tortuous process.
I enjoyed this look at Joy's life, especially seeing Oxford through her eyes and getting a glimpse into the personal side of her and C.S. "Jack" Lewis. Some parts of the book went "over my head" as these were very intellectual writers who would spend hours discussing literature and philosophy and poetry and mythology. Much of their lives centered around this "work" which was not something that translated into action on a page. But I'm sure it was true to life! My favorite scenes were seeing how Joy's boys reacted to the fairy tale like atmosphere of Oxford and the Kilns - I won't soon forget that. As for Jack's friend Tolkien - he comes off as rather gruff! But again, the author has done an excellent job with her research but also in capturing some of the humanity of these historical figures. Definitely one to pick up if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, the literary scene of the 1940's, Oxford, or deep character studies into someone's spiritual and personal journey.
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LibraryThing member janismack
Sweet love story between an American author and C.S. Lewis. Poor Joy had such a rough life, married to a cheating alcoholic and then falling in love with a man that was terrified to commit. I don’t want to spoil the end but I’m happy the poor woman had some happiness before her death.
LibraryThing member lamb521
Title: Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Author: Patti Callahan
Pages: 416
Year: 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
I am always looking for a good book to read. Are you? Do you choose it by the cover, who endorses it, the synopsis on a website or are there other criteria you utilize? For me,
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when choosing a book, I use the previous list and sometimes authors whose other works I have previously enjoyed. Here though is a new author to me, and frankly so is the subject of the historical work of fiction, Joy Davidman. C. S. Lewis’ works I have read but I was totally caught off guard to learn that Mrs. Lewis also wrote prolifically.
While the author concedes that much in the story is from her imagination, she does interject words that were written by Joy for example in her correspondence with C.S. Lewis. The bibliography in the very back of the book has a treasure trove of sources to learn more about Joy Davidman, her faith and her writings. Someday I may just pick up some of them to learn more about the woman behind a well-known man.
The writing pulls readers in and not just mentally but by the heart too! There were times in the story my heart felt heavy just thinking about what Joy might have experienced or felt in different seasons of her life. It is clear from the onset that her father demanded much from her and her mother was elusive, or is that fiction too? You the reader will have to decide.
There were different times I had to put the book down because the scene was somewhat depressing. There were other times I wondered if Joy may have done what action was described in the narrative for real. In either case, the author spurred my desire to want to know who the real Joy Davidman was before she met C. S. Lewis, their relationship and their marriage until her death. Even if it is a work of fiction, I am glad to be spurred on to learn more about this woman from the past, her life, her love and her faith.
Note: The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.
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LibraryThing member oddandbookish
I received this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (Just Read Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.

I was interested in reading this book because I am a fan of C.S. Lewis. I hadn’t heard of Joy Davidman before, so I was curious to learn more about her. Please note that although
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this book is based on real people and real events, it is still a work of historical fiction.

This book was incredible. It beautifully depicted the relationship between Lewis and Davidman. Their romance was unconventional but epic. The love they had for one another is truly remarkable. I loved how they influenced each other’s work and treated each other as equals.

Joy was such a strong woman. I enjoyed learning her backstory and seeing how she had the courage to not only leave her alcoholic and cheating husband, but also to start a new life with her children in another country.

I loved the epilogue. It really gave Joy a voice. She comes from a time where people often silenced her voice and contributions. I liked that the author let Joy have the final word.

Since this is a book about C.S. Lewis, is also discusses the Christian faith but it doesn’t go overboard with it. If you’re worried that it might be too religious, don’t be. The heart of the book is really their love story.

Lastly, the endpapers of the book feature a map of Oxford which I found to be a really nice touch, since the Narnia books are known to have maps.

Overall, this is an amazing read! If you are fan of C.S. Lewis or love books about incredible women, then pick this one up!
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LibraryThing member nicx27
I knew a little about C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman/Gresham from a film I watched years ago, Shadowlands. So I was already interested in the story of the two writers and how they came to be married. But Becoming Mrs Lewis goes way beyond that with what I suspect must be a huge amount of research on
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the part of Patti Callahan.

I don't want to go too far into the facts but Joy Gresham was an American, married with two young sons in 1950, when she entered into a correspondence with C.S. Lewis, the already very well known author, scholar and theologian. In doing so she embarked upon a course of action that would change her whole life. In the exchange of letters she discovered a man who would make her feel a way that her alcoholic, cruel husband could never do.

Joy's ill health leads her to take time away from her home life and America and to travel to England where she meets Jack, as Lewis prefers to be known, and his brother, Warnie. Jack is her intellectual equal and their time together makes her incredibly happy, but Jack is holding back all the time, unwilling to take their friendship any further. A period back in America and then a return to England follows. The title, and history, tells us that Joy became Mrs Lewis but I'm not going to say any more about the plot. If you don't already know what happens then it's best you find out when you read the book.

Becoming Mrs Lewis is a beautifully written book. I so enjoy books that fictionalise fact in this way although it does seem so much harder to write a review. For instance, I can't say really comment on the plot or the characters as they were not of the author's imagination, but were real people and known facts. However, what I can say is that Callahan brings them to life so well, making the reader feel like an onlooker in the 1950s, not a reader in the 2010s.

I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle at times with the writing style. But this is by no means a reflection or criticism of the author or her writing. We enter a very scholarly, literary world as soon as the book is opened and some of it was over my head. I don't tend to spend time philosophising, I'm no writer and I'm no scholar. This is also a book set in the early 50s, partly at Oxford, and I have to say that the author portrays that era and that world effortlessly. I thought it read very much like a book written during that time, rather than a book written in the modern day but set then.

What I'm trying to say is that whilst I found some elements difficult to read, the greater part enthralled me. This is Joy's story, narrated by her, and I found it compelling. She took a massive leap, leaving her husband and kids behind and coming to England, even if only for a few months initially. In the 1950s that was probably quite shocking. But thank goodness she did as it led to her Becoming Mrs Lewis.

Even though I knew what was to going to happen to bring the book to a close, I still found a tear escaping my eye. This is an epic love story in many ways, about a woman who was let down by her first husband and by the medical profession, but who eventually found true love and a greater peace. It's a story of perseverance in more ways than one, of hope, of friendship, trust and ultimately, love.

If you're a historical fiction fan, or someone who loves a bit of faction, then this is an ideal read for you. Patti Callahan has done a great job.
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LibraryThing member Cherylk
While, this book is a fiction, it felt very believable. I do not know much about C.S. Lewis's personal life. Therefore, to be it felt like he and Joy were destined to be together. Joy was more reserved then C.S. aka Jack. He went by Jack back than. Jack was more outgoing. Yet, as the saying goes
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"opposites attract". Which did they ever. Jack and Joy shared a true love connection within the letters that they corresponded with one another. Their love only grew as they hung out in each other's company. The more and more I read, the more I fell in love with their story.

Example: When Jack proposes to Joy, she says "This might not be the most romantic proposal". He replies "It's not meant to be romantic. It's meant to be sincere."

Remember Helen Joy Davidman
D. July 1960
Loved wife of C.S. Lewis
Here the whole world (stars, water, air
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes yet with hope that she
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.
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LibraryThing member GeraniumCat
I saw this title on NetGalley and was interested as I'm one of the many who grew up on the Narnia books, progressed to C.S. Lewis's adult books and later enjoyed the film Shadowlands, about his marriage to the poet and author Joyce Davidman.

What I hadn't realised when I requested the book was that
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this is a fictionalised version of that story, though it makes much use of letters between the two from their first correspondence - Davidman wrote to Lewis because his description of his religious conversion struck an immediate chord with her. He replied, and a lengthy and intimate exchange grew up between them. In many ways, fictionalisation is a good choice for biography - it serves to remind us that any account of another's life is necessarily a fiction, even when we have their writing to base it on (come to that, it's the case even when they've written it themselves). Initially though, it gave me some problems, because I found it rather overwritten - later, I told myself that Davidman (events are told in the first person, from her point of view) was, as a poet, given to wielding words dramatically, so a degree of self-dramatisation was appropriate.

I think the book's author, Patti Callahan, admired both Davidman and Lewis fairly uncritically, so I found myself reading between the lines quite a bit. Not with the sort of vilification that met Davidman when she had the "effrontery", as many saw it, to marry Lewis - they seem to me to have been a very successful couple, despite his qualms about her divorced state, their relationship being a genuine marriage of two minds - but I found Callahan's version of Joy quite hard to like, and I think that might well hold true for the real person. But then, I find Lewis quite hard to like too, if I'm honest - though the Inklings fascinate me and I find them eminently readable, I don't think I would actually like any of them.

I suppose my biggest problem was with the account of Davidman's first marriage, to fellow author William Gresham. He certainly comes across as a pretty loathsome person, but I suspect that during the time they spent together they would both have seemed, to me at least, self-centred and histrionic, probably bringing out the worst in each other. After her conversion to Christianity (she was Jewish, non-practising, and had flirted with communism – a much greater sin in the US than here in the UK), Davidman left her husband and two some for an extended research and writing trip to to the UK, during which she planned to meet Lewis in person. I can understand that she felt her writing was suffering at home, and that she needed to write to earn, but still found it hard to reconcile the length of time she was away from her children, particularly since there were already signs – according to Callahan’s account, at least – that at least one of the children feared their father, who had an explosive temper and was possibly a suicide risk.

Readers who share the Lewises' religion will almost certainly enjoy this retelling of their relationship, while those who, like me, are interested in the Inklings will find much of interest, albeit secondhand. I imagine for many it will provide an impetus to go back to Lewis's own non-fiction and some may be inspired to further explore Davidman's poetry, which is oft-quoted, which didn't appeal to me. I did, however, find a previously unread author amongst Davidman's Oxford friends (unfortunately, long out-of-print and therefore almost unobtainable). I found myself sympathising again with C.S. Lewis's brother Warnie who, although much troubled, seems to have been a gentle individual, and enjoyed an American's impressions of the shabby shambles in which the Lewis brothers lived in peculiarly English fashion. At one point I had wondered whether to give up on the book altogether. I’m glad that I didn’t, because I did end up enjoying this rather poignant story. Thanks go to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
I will start out telling you that I've never read anything by Joy Davidman or C.S. Lewis - yes, I've heard of C.S. Lewis but for some reason have never read his books. Despite the fact that I went into this novel very blind to the two main characters and the biographies written about them , I found
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this to be a well written, emotional novel. I am now very interested in their lives and plan to read some of the books by both authors.

In the late 40s, Joy was in a loveless marriage with two young sons. She was an author and a poet and searching for answers in life when she started writing letters to CS Lewis, one of the most influential and intelligent Christian authors of the 20th century. Despite the fact that Joy was an American and a feminist, she and Jack (CS Lewis) became great friends. When her health deteriorated, she went to England to recover and spent time with Jack and their friendship deepened. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

This was a lovely well researched novel that shows the strength of these two people that grew even stronger as their relationship became more solid.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
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LibraryThing member BeautyintheBinding
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,
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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."
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LibraryThing member vintagebeckie
Becoming Mrs. Lewis is billed as historical fiction, as it details the life of Joy Davidman and her relationship with C.S. Lewis. It is indeed historical in nature, how could it not be, but I would describe it as biographical fiction, since it is told in the first person voice of Joy Davidman.
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While this was very effective in relating to her character, I had to remind myself over and over that this book is fiction. The emotions portrayed and the scenes depicted are so realistic, that the book can easily be believed as coming directly from Davidman’s own private journals. Yet as the author states in the Afterword, no correspondence between Davidman and Lewis exists. Callahan did a commendable job in distilling the articles and books written about the pair, as well as transcripts of others’ recollections and letters, and speeches given by the two. She uses the published works of both Davidman and Lewis to piece together what their life looked like. And this intimate novel does just that.

The story that emerges is a fascinating journey of faith and love. Davidman’s relationship with Lewis is at the forefront, but the most moving scenes of this book are her encounters with God. Her life was messy and sorrow-filled, yet touched with the grace of God. But if you are fan of traditional Christian fiction, you may be surprised or even offended by Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I was not. Too often the christian life is viewed as a one time salvation experience that instantly changes one from sinful to holy. And yes, when saved by Jesus, we take on His righteousness — His being the operative word. Unfortunately for most, if not all of us, we struggle with the same old sin nature, the desires of our flesh, and the influence of our world and experiences. Joy wrestled with that, for which I am thankful to the author. Here was a woman who was influential in Christian circles in her own right, but also was a large influence on the later writings of Lewis. But she continued to be flawed and falling, yet ever loved by God. That is how I would describe Joy Davidman, and how I would describe myself.

There is a lot of drinking in the book; some casual/social and some to excess and abuse. There is talk of sex and affairs and fleshly desires. And that might not appeal to all readers of CF, but it is a realistic portrayal of a life that strived to live for God. I recommend Becoming Mrs. Lewis wholeheartedly.


Audience: adults.
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LibraryThing member LAWonder10
Joy Davidman had "found God" but as a new "believer", she wasn't sure whose interpretation to follow. C.S. Lewis, had stated in an article she read, that he was a recent "believer", also. She boldly sent a correspondence to him, which he, surprisingly, responded to. Thus, the beginning of a new
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Joy was married with two children. Her marriage was tumultuous, and her husband repeatedly cheated on her. She felt, with her new found "faith" that divorce was wrong, yet how could God really want her to be so miserable? She needed answers from someone better versed in scriptural understanding to answer her concerns.
Both she and her husband were writers, but his wasn't selling and hers were "hit and miss".
After a severe illness, and upon her doctor's recommendation, she went to England to recuperate. She was certain this would be the only opportunity she would ever experience any type of vacation away from home.
Her adventure began...
This novel, based on factual events, was written in parts.
Most characters were portrayed well. The scenes were quite vividly described.
The Book Title and Cover were "fitting".
The story-line was very interesting, but there were no clear notes on what part was fiction.
The "flow" of the story , at times, felt interrupted and sometimes I was unsure who was doing the dialogue.
^^READER BEWARE: There are several intimately sexual references, although no explicit sex. There are also occasional profane terminology.
​I offer a Four Stars rating for literary content
*This book was gifted me with no urging for a positive review. This is my honest review.
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LibraryThing member teachlz
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
This is going to be less a review than just myself explaining how I was all over the place while reading this novel. I think most people have heard of C. S. Lewis and his Narnia, but of his only wife Joy, very little. Was what drew me to this book. I liked it, I didn't like it, found it repetitive
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at times, interesting at others, grew frustrated with all the spirituality, philosophizing, the tone was so melancholy, not much joy to be found within. So conflicting, a good look at a woman who wanted more than her time period generally allowed a woman, but so much complaining, searching.

Well written, a woman few knew much about, a love affair that seemed somewhat unreal but was, and a spiritual searching for snswers from a most unlikely source. As i said I was all over the place as I was reading.

ARC from Netgalley
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LibraryThing member Meganleigh844
I love C.S. Lewis and even studied his life and works in college—so when I heard there was a story about his wife, the book immediately became a highly anticipated read! And upon reading “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” I was happy to discover that the author, Ms. Callahan, possesses a superb and very
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engaging writing style!

“Becoming Mrs. Lewis” by Patti Callahan is the story of Joy and how she became C.S. Lewis’s wife (hence the title). It’s not as much a love story as more of a picture of Joy’s journey (intellectual, spiritual and physical). Joy Davidman struggles with a lot at the beginning of the book. It is a raw portrait of a woman in a bad situation, who sometimes makes wrong choices. She tries to find God in the midst of her struggles and to make sense of things. She is somewhat of a feminist and ahead of her time. She has a lot of courage. I love reading the letters between Joy and C.S. Lewis as she reaches out to him and they develop a strong friendship. I did start to question her feelings for Lewis though and the decisions she made while still married to another man. But I was so happy to see that she realizes her obsessive love for Lewis and that all of her life she’s been going to the wrong places to find the love she desires. Instead of seeking men to find the love she needs, she needs to go to God for this love—and she does! I was also happy that Lewis kept his distance and did not allow anything to happen while she was still married.

For all the C.S. Lewis fans, there are plenty of nuggets about Lewis sprinkled throughout the book, on both his life and writing. Ms. Callahan obviously did extensive research. I love getting to hear a lot of Lewis’s thoughts and references to his works. His discussions with Joy are fascinating. I especially love when they talk about and describe “fairy land” and their longing for it. It is interesting to hear Lewis describe his conversion, which came about by a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien (author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”) about the One True Myth (Christ and the Kingdom of God). I do remember hearing in college some controversial things about Lewis and his relationship with Joy. Lewis wasn’t always a conventional, conservative Christian. I think instead of trying to glorify Lewis and Joy, the author seeks to portray a portrait of two people with human sins and struggles, who also love God and have both contributed great works to Christian literature and thinking.

Content: I give this book a PG-13 rating and it’s more geared towards adults. Some examples of the content are: a child is physically abused; a man has PTSD; a woman’s husband has an affair and drinks; a woman curses, but the word isn’t actually written; a man attempted suicide in the past; a woman had an affair with a married man; a man smokes; the main character recalls her experience of seeing a person commit suicide; a reference to making love; the Lord’s name is taken in vain; talk of affairs and sex (nothing explicit).

Rating: I give this book 4 stars.

Genre: Christian fiction; Historical fiction; Romance

I want to thank TLC Book Tours, Patti Callahan and Thomas Nelson for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are my own. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR 16, Part 255.
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LibraryThing member Maydacat
How can a divorced American woman writer, with a Jewish ancestry, formerly an atheist, and an ex-communist develop a lasting, loving relationship with an devout English don and religious author? Just read this book and you will see how this unlikely pair became enamored with each other. Joy
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Davidman and C. S. Lewis first were pen pals, pouring out their thoughts and hopes and beliefs in letters. Later, as Joy’s marriage fell apart, she fled the unhappy and even dangerous scene to be closer to the man she’d come to know and respect. They were indeed kindred spirits, but had much to overcome, including their past lives, he a lifelong bachelor, and she a divorcée, as well as the dictates of the church. Though a work of fiction, author Patti Callahan has done much research into their lives, and the characters do come alive on the page. Their struggles are evident but so is the joy they experienced with each other, and if their happy ending was cut short, it did not lessen their devotion to each other, even after death. And death did not still their love.
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LibraryThing member claudia.castenir
Reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis gave me the sensation of wading into the depths of troubled waters, then swimming only to find the choppy waves crashing about me. Often it was necessary to come up gasping for air. This work of fiction is based on extensive research into the real lives of Joy Davidman
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and C. S. Lewis, and those closest to them. Knowing this, made the arising emotions more real, more pertinent. Davidman's struggles to set aside the masks she wore, to understand the God she longed to grow closer too and to know herself as loved, were blessed by moments of epiphany, and lessons learned through pain. Lewis' oeuvre speaks to his Christian journey, many quotes from which are included in this book as he and Joy wrestle with understanding their pasts, and their relationship with God and one another.

The back matter included by Callahan is helpful in processing and discussing Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Thoughtful discussion questions, while beneficial for a book club, are great for personal reflection. A gem is found in Callahan's imagined second letter from Joy to Jack following those questions gives the reader the gift of extending the story. A timeline is included for all of us left-brained readers, and “Ten Things You Probably Didn't Know About Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis's Love Story” and more information on Oxford hold special nuggets of information as well. Finally the author invites readers to a seven-part podcast that explores in greater depth this beautiful love story.

I am so very grateful to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, via NetGalley. All opinions stated here are my own, and I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.
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LibraryThing member SABC
This is the improbable love story between Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. Both well known authors from different countries who found each other and discovered a love between husband and wife that was very possible....a true love story.
LibraryThing member NadineC.Keels
They'd been tamed beyond their wild nature...and I knew that capture had damaged their souls.
"I'm sorry," I whispered every time. "We were meant to be free."

Becoming Mrs. Lewis
by author Patti Callahan: the story of Joy Davidman and the man who would one day be her husband, C. S. Lewis. Or Jack, to
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those who knew him.

Yes, it was my recognition of Lewis and his works, my fondness for Narnia, and my remembrance of A Grief Observed that drew my attention to this fictionalized account. But no, I wasn't looking for a novel romanticizing or idolizing Davidman and Lewis as if they weren't real, flawed human beings, more than just their well-known literature. To that point, I'm glad this isn't a historical "romance."

Even so, it's one of those rare times when I can't accurately rate how I feel about a book--and not only because I decided not to finish it (though I did read most of it.)

This author's style is seasoned, unrushed, and rich, and there were moments in the reading that gave me wonderful pause. Joy as a girl, empathizing with lions in captivity. The idea that we wouldn't get where we are without what we've gone through. Observing Joy, her children, and Jack, then going back to look at the dedication in one of my copies of Narnia and saying, "Ooohhh." Contemplating a life beyond one's own captivity: "What on earth would become of me if I should ever grow brave?"

And, of course, my writer self understanding so much about characters who are writers.

Yet, though I do enjoy dense novels when I can, this one was hard for me to keep pushing through. I found much of it depressing. A resolution here but then more despair there. Continual, increasing longing, going unfulfilled. I can appreciate stories of people slowly growing in love, but when it's a moral dilemma, a constant struggle against a character's conscience, it's like reading about a whole lot of feelings that feel wrong. Once I got to Joy and Harry, I couldn't push on much further.

I'm not sorry I gave this novel a chance, though.
BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member judithrs
Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Patti Callahan. 2018, Janet lent me this novel, an account of the life of Joy Davidman before and after she became Mrs. C. S. Lewis. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would as I did not have a very favorable opinion of her for some reason. It was impossible not to compare it
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to the play/movie “Shadowlands.” Both versions. I found her more sympathetic as I learned more about her life. If you are intrigued by the Davidman /Lewis courtship and marriage and/or if you like a good love story, you will enjoy this book.
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LibraryThing member KarenOdden
As a child I had read Lewis's Narnia books; and as an adult, I had seen the movie *Shadowlands* and read a portion of C.S. Lewis's *A Grief Observed,* his meditations after the death of his wife Joy from cancer. So I knew the basic story of their love affair, which is heartbreaking and--in both
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those works--told with restraint, eloquence, and deep feeling. This book, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, aims at following in the tradition of recent books about women who are married to famous men--e.g. The Aviator's Wife (Lindbergh), The Paris Wife (Hemingway) and Lady Clementine (Churchill)--but whose stories have been elided by history. I love that sort of feminist recovery project, but to succeed that sort of book needs to provide fresh and meaningful insight into the events or into the woman's subjectivity. It pains me to write a poor review, but this book disappointed me, in nearly every way.

Being written in first person, from Joy's perspective, the book sets up the expectation that we will be privy to Joy's intimate thoughts, but the events of her first marriage and divorce are presented in sometimes tedious detail and with immature, trite psychological insight (as when she asks her friend, "How did we both fall in love with and marry alcoholics? ... Was it something in our childhood?"). Further, at the top of each chapter is a couplet from one of (the real) Joy Davidson's sonnets that she wrote while falling in love with Lewis (whom she called Jack). These couplets are lovely, evocative tidbits that stand in contrast to the uneven prose in the chapters and dialog that at times made me wince. Callahan has Joy speak in trite metaphors such as: "This river ... It's very much like life." And their love affair feels predicated on the craving for admiration and the sort of push/pull characteristic of teen romance; Joy says, "I imagined a few opening lines for the moment I saw Jack." She says to her son, "Look at the moon and know that I'll be looking at it too. We will be under the same stars and the same sky." I must admit, that passage felt to me a little too close to the song "Somewhere Out there" from the animated classic *An American Tail*. ("Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight/Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight ... And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishin' on the same bright star...")

The book I think Callahan could have written more successfully is the one that begins to emerge in her epilogue--her discovery and research into Joy and Jack's love affair. That is, I'd have relished reading *why* she was so fascinated by their relationship and how it related to, or informed her own life. Perhaps it could be a twinned narrative, like *Julie and Julia*, for example, moving back and forth between the two stories. I think that could have been a compelling, intimate book.
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LibraryThing member bereanna
Long and Excellent discussion. Joy Davidman, author and poet, becomes a pen pal to Oxford don and writer C S Lewis. Based on many sources, this historical fiction taught me about Lewis and his books which include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and books about Christianity. This novel was
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fulfilling and satisfying spurring me to google many things.
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Alabama Author Award (Fiction — 2020)
Christy Awards (Nominee — Book of the Year — 2019)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

448 p.; 8.4 inches


0785218092 / 9780785218098
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