Patti Callahan weaves a hypnotic historical fiction narrative of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, or “Jack,” as he’s known to his closest friends.
In 1946, Joy is married to an unhappy man and doing her best to raise her two young boys and juggle a writing career. One day in her son’s nursery, her knees hit the floor as a religious experience shakes her to her core, and she decides to write to C.S. Lewis, who loves to answer letters, and ask him all of her questions about God.
Joy is thrilled when Jack responds to her letter, and they start a long conversation across the ocean. When Joy’s health and marriage take a turn for the worse, she leaves home for a trip to England. Joy spends months exploring, writing and caring for herself, and she finally gets to meet her precious Jack and his brother, Warnie. Joy is in her version of heaven, but the skies darken when she learns that her cousin and her husband have fallen in love in her absence. As Joy is forced to return to her tattered American life in an attempt to make things right, she and Jack continue their pen-pal relationship, and she musters up the courage to divorce her husband and move her two boys to England.
Joy’s challenges are likely those of many midcentury women trying to conform to society’s ideas of womanhood and motherhood while also living as individuals with their own dreams and desires. 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.