Thursday, 27 September 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Finished September 13
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

This novel is based on the real life of Joy Davidman and her relationship with C.S. Lewis. Joy was an American woman, a writer and a poet, when she began writing letters to C.S. Lewis.
In 1946, Joy's husband Bill called her late one night as he was going through a mental struggle. She tried to talk reasonably to him, but this time he hung up on her. Their home was in a far-flung suburb in the Hudson Valley, a distance from town. She had two young children. As she struggled against the panic she felt, she found herself on her knees, in tears, praying, even though she was an affirmed atheist. She had an experience that she found hard to describe, but said that she felt loved and known, and at peace. Thus began her journey towards enlightenment. Shortly thereafter, she came across an article about C.S. Lewis. She had already read a couple of his books, but found his history of moving from atheism to a search for enlightenment similar to her own, and thus decided to write a letter from both herself and her husband about their struggle, their questions, and doubts.
Joy was a passionate and insightful woman, who questioned many things, was well educated, and who had her own health issues. As Lewis answered her letters, and the two began a conversation, she was treated by him as a person worthy of consideration, respect, and worth engaging in vigorous debate.
When the struggles of her marriage and her health brought her to the point where her physician recommended that she leave her circumstances for a time, it became possible for her to go to England, get more affordable healthcare, take time to write, and meet Lewis in person. She spent only a small fraction of her time there with him, living in London for the majority of her visit, and staying with friends, acquaintances, and people they referred her to. With the support she gained, she found herself able to return home and begin the dissolution of her marriage. This was not easy at that time, and her marriage being a Catholic one added to the difficulty.
This story is told from her viewpoint, with excerpts from real letters, her poetry, and other historical documents. But much of the story is an imagined one, even though Callahan makes it feel very true. Joy's devotion to her sons, her struggles with faith, and her feelings for Lewis are clear, and this isn't a fairy tale romance.
Joy struggled, as many women still do, between her sense of what was expected of her, and what she felt to be right. She make mistakes, she admitted to faults, but she kept trying to be the woman she felt herself to be, and to claim the life she felt she had earned.
A very interesting story.

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