Becoming Mrs. Lewis

The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis
Narrated by: Lauren Woodward
Length: 12 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,074 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Now a USA Today and Publishers Weekly best seller!

“Patti Callahan seems to have found the story she was born to tell in this tale of unlikely friendship turned true love between Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, that tests the bounds of faith and radically alters both of their lives. Their connection comes to life in Callahan’s expert hands, revealing a connection so persuasive and affecting, we wonder if there’s another like it in history. Luminous and penetrating.” (Paula McLain, New York Times best-selling author of The Paris Wife)

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice. 

From New York Times best-selling author Patti Callahan comes 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. 

“Patti Callahan Henry breathes wondrous fresh life into one of the greatest literary love stories of all time.... The result is a deeply moving story about love and loss that is transformative and magical.” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times best-selling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“I was swept along, filled with hope, and entirely beguiled, not only by the life lived behind the veil of C. S. Lewis’s books but also by the woman who won his heart. A literary treasure from first page to last.” (Lisa Wingate, New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours)

©2018 Patti Callahan (P)2018 Thomas Nelson

Critic Reviews

“Profoundly evocative, revealing an intimate view of a woman whose love and story had never been fully told...until now...Becoming Mrs. Lewis is a tour de force and the must-read of the season!” (Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times best-selling author of Beach House Reunion) 

"Patti Callahan somehow inhabits Davidman, taking her readers inside the writer’s hungry mind and heart. We keenly feel Davidman’s struggle to become her own person at a time (the 1950s) when women had few options.... An astonishing work of biographical fiction." (Lynn Cullen, best-selling author of Mrs. Poe)

"Patti Callahan breathes life into this fascinating woman whose hunger for knowledge leads her to buck tradition at every turn." (Diane Chamberlain, New York Times best-selling author of The Dream Daughter)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator really got in the way.

I spent most of the time I listened to this book trying to improve the narration in my mind so I could enjoy it. How was this narrator chosen? She doesn’t bring an accent/voice that is appropriate for either Joy or Jack.

Apart from that huge issue, the book is worth reading. The characters are interesting for their strengths and weaknesses, remarkable for their body of work and intriguing for their developing worldview, careers and friendships.

23 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Awful narrator

I wish I had just bought it in paperback, because this narrator was one of the worst I have ever listened to. My love of Lewis is about the only thing that made me endure her, even with such a great story! She makes Joy a whiny American, and Jack a pretentious snob. I would recommend the book but not on audio.

20 people found this helpful

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A Wonderful Exploration of CS Lewis's Muse

This book is a work of fiction. However, in this case, what it means is that Patti Callahan has done extensive research into the life of Joy Davidman Lewis, her relationship with CS Lewis and his brother Warnie, and her writing. It's fiction, because Callahan fills in the details that tie her research together. It is wonderfully written, and the use of quotes from Joy's sonnets and other writings makes for a truly magical experience.

9 people found this helpful

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Narrator is TERRIBLE

The Narrator for this book is awful. Her general reading sounds like bad acting and her accents are unbearable. I am shocked to see she has narrated other books. I love the story so far, but I just can't take the narrator anymore and must return it and get a hardcopy to finish it.

47 people found this helpful

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I have to agree - author is buried with narration

very religious which might not make it for me anyway but the narration is slow and plodding. I kept trying - but couldn't get through it.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A painful but beautiful masterpiece

This isn't a book for when you're looking for a light, relaxing read. Joy's life was not an easy one and it could be difficult to read about her marriage, faith, and health struggles, all from her deep, extremely well-written, first person perspective. (Her perspective was written so well there were times I had to remind myself this wasn't an autobiography.) I tried to read it at my usual time (right before bed) but found it far too heavy for that time, so I ended up reading it during the daytime only, and eventually getting the audiobook so I could get through it faster. That's not to say I didn't like it and just wanted to get it over with. (If that was the case, I wouldn’t .) However, it was very emotionally heavy. While I don't mind the occasional emotional book, I don't read a lot of them and don't necessarily want to spend more time than possible reading something that makes me feel sad or frustrated, so ultimately, it was better for me, emotionally-speaking, to listen to it on audio simply so I could get through it faster.

I knew about Joy's health struggles from some C. S. Lewis biographies I read in school, and I knew she was married before she met and married Lewis. I did NOT know that her first husband (Bill) was an unfaithful, emotionally abusive, sociopath who, quite frankly, she had every right to divorce (in the eyes of man AND God) long before she did. While it was never extremely detailed, it could still be so anger-inducing to read of Bill's treatment of Joy and overall behavior and attitudes. He was a sick, self-absorbed, unrepentant individual.

Thankfully, though, the story is just as much about Joy's journey to Christian faith as it is about her life (and her friendship and eventual romance with C. S. Lewis), which provided a golden thread of hope for her and the reader to cling to even during the hard times. The author handled this faith thread masterfully, showing how the the "Great Lion" pursued Joy throughout her life, and how all Joy's longings and struggles were leading her to deeper knowledge of and relationship with God. I truly cried my way through the final chapters. They were painful, but they were beautiful.

The thing I struggled with was certain elements of the romance. On one hand, I felt the author handled difficult topics tastefully. Sexual struggles were a large part of Joy's life and the author generally (with maybe a few exceptions, depending on your personal convictions about sexual content) kept the balance between saying yes, she did this thing, but not describing the acts or approving of them. On the other hand, it could sometimes be awkweird (that's totally a word) to read of some of Joy's sexual attraction for Jack. It's one thing to know in a distant sort of way that C. S. Lewis was married and therefore did married things. It's another to be in the perspective of the woman who was attracted to him and read of her physical longings to be with him. As the reader I'm over here feeling like, "Mom, Dad, that’s gross! *covers eyes*" Lewis was a man I respect on an intellectual and spiritual level and that was just... awkweird... to read of someone seeing him in a more sexual light. Again, this was handled in a way that was not excessively detailed, and I appreciated how the author showed Joy struggling with these longings, not just giving in to them, and even coming to a place where she realized that sex alone was not going to satisfy the underlying need for relationship and love that she had. In fact, even marriage, though it can satisfy in an earthly way, could not fully satisfy that need, because what she and all of us truly long for is to be completely known, accepted, and loved in spite of our many, many flaws, and the only one who can ever truly know us, accept us, and love us to that depth is God. Still, I can't deny the uncomfortable feelings of being asked to see Lewis in that more sexual light.

When it comes down to it, I feel this book deserves 5 stars despite any discomfort. This difficult story about a very human woman could not have been easy to write, yet the author did it with such incredible grace and skill, both on the technical side and on the spiritual side. She displayed the ugly parts of Joy's story without wallowing in them, reveled in the beautiful parts, and time and time again, she turned it all to point to God. The end result is nothing less than a masterpiece that made me think, moved me deeply, and was one of the best impulse buys I've ever made.

4 people found this helpful

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Buy the Book

I don't like to give a poor review, but feel I must. The story is an interesting one, but the narration is TERRIBLE. The narrator mispronounced many words and names and her inflections, where she used any, were often placed on the wrong words. The voice she used for Joy was whiney and I didn't care for her British (nor Russian) accent. She went in and out of the these accents and her male voices sounded like children play acting. I would recommend the book, but definitely not the audio version.

4 people found this helpful

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Mixed Feelings

Loved the storyline which I was already familiar with. I felt the narrator was a novice and did a mediocre job "reading" the story. The story tended to be a bit saccharine and I found it hard to believe that Joy pined away for Jack in such an adolescent school-girl crush kind of way. She was a highly intelligent and brilliant woman in her own right! The story is heartbreaking and it is infuriating that the doctors she saw over the years were do dismissive about her various and chronic ailments which were so valid, one way or the other!

4 people found this helpful

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Beautiful Story

I have not read work of CS Lewis, only seen the movies. I have, read and heard quotes of his words over the years in many talks and online. This book has started a fire to learn and read both his and Joy’s words. And although this is a novel, I believe it captured their story a best it could. Very well written and narrated.

3 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

Beautifully written and well read. I loved every minute of my listen... Patti gave us a glimpse into the lives of an interesting woman and an icon of a man... It is always fun to be able to research real characters in a novel... I'll admit that I didn't know much about C.S. Lewis as a person and loved getting to know them both through this novel. Well done, Patti!

3 people found this helpful