Becoming Mrs Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
© 2018 Patti Callahan
Few books transfix me in the way that Becoming Mrs Lewis did; I suppose it helps to have a strong affection for ‘Jack’ to begin with. Reading Surprised by Joy felt less like working on something and more like listening to a friend chat, and Becoming Mrs. Lewis was quite the same way. It’s the story of Joy Davidman, an American writer who took up writing letters to CS Lewis while struggling with her newfound faith and her illfound marriage. Though no stranger to deep discussions with women over matters literary and theological, Lewis and his brother Warnie were especially taken with their ‘American friend’, and invited her to visit them should she ever visit England. She did, of course, seeking refuge from her frustrated artist-turned-drunken lech of a husband, and there fell in love with England, Oxford, and — Jack.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a curious novel; based much in fact, and though ostensibly about a romance, its delivery is far more serious and substantial. Throughout the book, Jack and Joy, and sometimes his friends in England, are deep in conversation with one another about all manner of things. It’s not quite random, though, because the give and take leads them to new revelations about themselves and God. It is in England, surrounded by the beauty of Oxford, the English countryside, and the warmth of true friendship, that Joy finds the strength she needs to take a leap and leave her toxic ‘husband’ behind, beginning a new life for herself and her boys in England. From there she is free to grow into her a best self — developing her writing, maturing in faith, and developing a deep relationship with Lewis. That relationship is fascinating to watch grow, as they each wrestle with their inner doubts. They each have to have an “A-ha” moment before they can embrace one another as husband and wife as well as deep and devoted friends.
Becoming Mrs Lewis is an utterly lovely novel. I read it immediately after watching Shadowlands (and many, many thanks to Hopewell’s Public Library of Life for bringing that gem to my attention!) and was so primed to enjoy it. The book was so much deeper than I expected, though, in part because the conversations are based on their letters and quotes from the pair. At least, I recognized quite a few Lewisisms, like his wryly noting that if someone thinks Christianity is the key to happiness and comfort, they’d be better off with a bottle of port. Although I was fairly familiar with Lewis’ and Davidman’s story — their meeting in correspondence, a friendship turned to love in England, their marriage to one another late in life, and her sudden passing when cancer loomed — I wasn’t bored for a moment here, enjoying this like precious few other books.
Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis