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DON NOBLE: Patti Callahan's novel explores the origin mystery of Narnia

Updated: 3 days ago

Patti Callahan’s new book, "Once Upon a Wardrobe," is at its heart an origin story, but its own origins are clear.

Just a couple of years ago, Callahan had a great success with her novel “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” in which she tells the story of the unusual courtship of American poet Joy Davidman, a Jewish atheist, and C. S. Lewis, known as Jack, Oxford don and one of the world’s most famous and articulate defenders of Christianity.


Callahan became entranced by the story of Lewis’ life and has chosen to tell that story as a fictional investigation into the origins of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

The framing story threatens to become a little sentimental from time to time, but finally it really works.

In Worcester, England in 1950, George Devonshire, an 8-year-old boy, has a weak heart and is not expected to live very long at all. His parents and his older sister, Megs, are sad beyond measure but there seems to be no hope, no cure.

As writers have known for centuries, generating emotion for an afflicted child is shooting fish in a barrel. We all feel for Tiny Tim, and for Stowe’s Little Eva, but George is special.

Bright, clever, he lacks any self-pity and seems clearly named after England’s patron, Saint George the dragon slayer.

In George’s sickroom there is a well-read copy of Lewis’ novel and there is a wardrobe. He sits in the wardrobe sometimes and ponders. He knows the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and Narnia and Aslan and the White Witch is fiction, not real, but wants to know: Where did that story come from? His sister Megs is a student at Oxford University, a s