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DON NOBLE: Author takes risk in fictionalized autobiography

Patti Callahan, the author of “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” is, in fact, Patti Callahan Henry, bestselling and prize-winning Alabama author of 13 volumes of fiction, most recently “The Bookshop at Water’s End,” one of a series of books in which a female protagonist has her life disrupted, by illness, accident or most commonly, a rotten husband, and has to regroup. She does this with the aid of supportive friends and there is usually a happy ending.

Usually the setting for these popular novels is the contemporary American South, often in a seaside town.

“Becoming Mrs. Lewis” is a very different kind of novel and Henry deserves credit for risking disappointing her large readership. The name change is not meant to disavow her other work but to distinguish this novel from her usual settings and subjects.

This is the fictionalized autobiography of Joy Davidman, an accomplished American novelist, magazine writer, biographer and poet.

In 1946, Joy is living in upstate New York, in the Hudson Valley, with two little boys and her husband Bill, who fought in the Spanish Civil War and now suffers from PTSD.

Bill is depressed, alcoholic, sometimes suicidal, flagrantly unfaithful, potentially violent.

Under unbearable pressures, Joy, a Jewish atheist, falls to her knees, prays for help, has a moment of grace and becomes a devout Christian.