Becoming Mrs. Lewis (Callahan)

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
Patti Callahan, 2018
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
416 pp.

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice: An exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called "my whole world."

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 don and the beloved writer 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, finding 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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—R.N., Auburn University; M.C.H., Georgia State
Currently—lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama

New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry has published nine novels: Losing the Moon, Where the River Runs, When Light Breaks, Between the Tides, The Art of Keeping Secrets, Driftwood Summer, The Perfect Love Song, Coming up for Air, and And Then I Found You—her most recent. Hailed as a fresh new voice in southern fiction, Henry has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and nominated four different times for the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Novel of the Year. Her work is published in five languages and in audiobook by Brilliance Audio.

Henry has appeared in numerous magazines including Good Housekeeping, skirt!, South, and Southern Living. Two of her novels were Okra Picks and Coming up For Air was selected for the August 2011 Indie Next List. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, library events and book festivals. A full time writer, wife, and mother of three—Henry lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

Patti Callahan Henry grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of an Irish minister, and moved south with her family when she was 12 years old. With the idea that being a novelist was “unrealistic,” she set her sights on becoming a pediatric nurse, graduating from Auburn University with a degree in nursing, and from Georgia State with a Master’s degree in Child Health.

She left nursing to raise her first child, Meagan, and not long after having her third child, Rusk, she began writing down the stories that had always been in her head. Henry wrote early in the mornings, before her children woke for the day, but it wasn’t until Meagan, then six, told her mother that she wanted “to be a writer of books” when she grew up, that Henry realized that writing was her own dream as well. She began taking writing classes at Emory University, attending weekend writers’ conferences, and educating herself about the publishing industry, rising at 4:30 AM to write. Her first book, Losing the Moon, was published in 2004. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Patti Callahan took a character on the periphery, one who has historically taken a back seat to her male counterpart, and given her a fierce, passionate voice. For those fans of Lewis curious about the woman who inspired A Grief Observed this book offers a convincing, fascinating glimpse into the private lives of two very remarkable individuals.
New York Journal of Books

Callahan vividly enters the life of a woman searching for both God and romantic love in this pleasing historical novel…. Making full use of historical documentation, Callahan has created an incredible portrait of a complex woman.
Publishers Weekly

[W]ill not disappoint.… Callahan's writing is riveting and her characters spring to life to create a magical and literary experience that won't be soon forgotten. —Christine Sharbrough, Industry, TX
Library Journal

Readers…of C.S. Lewis will relish learning about the woman who inspired some of his most famous books. Others will find the slow burn of the romance between the two mesmerizing [and] …will appreciate reading about this vibrant and intelligent woman.

[H]ypnotic.… Spanning more than a decade, this slow-burning love story will be especially satisfying to writers and C.S. Lewis fans, as there are many references to his literary canon and his famous stories of Narnia. Callahan's prose is heartfelt and full of grace.

Discussion Questions
1. Joy’s early life was fraught with sickness and rigid family expectations. How did these years shape her love life moving forward? How did these early years influence her newfound friendship with Jack? How did she overcome them to love?

2. When Joy’s cousin, Renee moved into the house with her two young children, things began to change. Have you sheltered family members in a time of need, and how did that change your family dynamics? What were your first reactions to Renee moving in?

3. Joy’s heartbreak at Bill’s announcement that he and Renee were in love was painful. Do you believe it was because she loved Bill? Felt betrayed? That Renee was the "comparison" used all of her life and now that memory surged forward from childhood? Have you ever been in a similar circumstance where old heartbreak was relived in a new form?

4. Joy expressed distress about how some of Jack’s friends didn’t approve of her or appear to like her. Why do you think this was true? How did this affect their friendship?

5. Many of Jack and Joy’s friends talk about their intellectual compatibility, of Joy’s ability to keep up with Jack and how they both had incredible photographic memories. Did this bring them together? Did this help love grow? How?

6. Joy made tough decisions about moving to England and taking her sons from their father. How did this affect Davy and Douglas? What do you believe she could she have done differently?

7. Bill fought to have his sons return to America as Joy appeared to be on her deathbed. Jack wrote a scathing letter and forbid it. How did this change the boys’ lives from that point on?

8. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the novel is when Joy discovers she has terminal cancer at the same time that Jack admits his true love and desire to marry her. How does this affect her recovery? How does this eros change what happens next?

9. Joy wonders about Jack’s relationship with both Janie Moore and Ruth Pitter. How did his relationships with these women affect his heart and love for Joy? Was Joy jealous or curious? How did it affect her view of him and their relationship?

10. What part of this story touched you the most? What part of this story changed you the most?
(Questions issued by the publisher. See the Book Club Kit for more info on the novel.)

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