Thursday, November 1, 2018
Published October 2018 by Nelson, Thomas Inc.
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
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.
Callahan does a fine job of telling Davidman's story and helping readers understand what might have motivated her, how she came to leave her husband and why, and how she became the muse and invaluable aide to one of the last century's great writers. Not only that, but by telling this story, Callahan is dropping readers into a time when the tales of Narnia, as well as Middle Earth, were just being released to the world. It's sometimes hard to imagine a time when The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of The Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien) trilogy weren't classics, but new works just being putting into readers' hands. Lewis and Tolkien (whom Lewis called "Tollers") were fast friends; in fact, Lewis ran with a very well-known literary group. But then Davidman was no slouch in that department either, befriending science fiction mega star Arthur Clarke during her time in London.
The more the book honed in, though, on the relationship between Jack and Joy, the more attached to the characters I became. In Callahan's tale of their time together, Davidman realizes early on that she is in love with Lewis; but he has to nearly lose her to be willing to let his feelings be realized. And I so badly wanted him to do that because it was clear that he was a man capable of deep feelings, as demonstrated by his devotion to his brother and his fondness for Davidman's sons. Callahan takes the readers through a time of great sadness but avoids leaving her readers in tears by carefully moving the end of the book to a place of looking back.
This book comes in at just over 400 pages long; it could have been cut 50 pages or so and not so often gotten lost in rambling that often had me setting aside the book. It's a shame because it's otherwise a very interesting story that touched my emotions without being maudlin, a very sweet love story about two people who found each other when neither of them expected to find "the one."