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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

Red Magazine UK: Author Patti Callahan on the woman who changed her life.

The life lessons we can all learn from Joy Davidman (the woman who stole C.S Lewis' heart).



Red Magazine asked me to write a letter to Joy. WHY hadn't I thought of that? In many ways my novel was a love letter to her indomitable spirit, but a letter felt right.

From inspiring daring decisions to trusting yourself and your intuition, Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis', taught author Patti Callahan many valuable life lessons. Here, she writes her hero a love letter...

Dear Joy,

When I first read your question “If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?” I felt a tremble below my heart. What a beautiful question. How are we to answer it?

I’d already come to know you through your poetry and your letters, and I’d already written much about your improbable love story, but when I read this question, I set off to find the answer in the essay. But I quickly realised that you never answered the question on paper because you answered it with your life. You answered it with your courageous, intelligent, and fiery choices every single day. You set off on a transformational journey that not only changed your life but also my life, and quite possibly the lives of anyone who reads about you. And more importantly you changed the life of C. S. Lewis.

Your daring decisions in the face of societal and family pressure were so ahead of your time, and so brave that you inspire me to look closely at my own life. In every step you took you remind us that although we might not need to pack up our kids and move to England, we might just need to pack up society’s expectations and other’s definitions of us, to become who we are meant to be.


When you walked away from abuse and heartbreak without any promises of a brighter future, you taught us that we can do the same.

At first I set off to write about you because I was intrigued by your improbable love story with C. S. Lewis, but as I came to know you, I realised that instead of writing just a love story, I also wanted to write about your fascinating transformational journey. I began to write about you to honour you and to introduce you to our generation of women.

Oh, how I admire you and I wanted others to do the same. I was tired of hearing about you, and I wanted to hear from you. So, I read your poetry; your letters; your essays, and your hidden sonnets to C. S. Lewis (your beloved husband).

As I wrote this novel you were teaching me with your mistakes and blunders, but also with your courage, your wit and your vulnerability. There were times I wanted to reach through the pages and shake you. Then there were the times that you seemed to be reaching through the pages to shake me.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis (Paperback)

“Trust yourself and your intuition,” you said to me when you climbed aboard the SS United States to pursue your life and health against the odds.

“It’s okay to be different than the women around you; we are all created in the Maker’s image with our own journey," you told us as you lived in a third floor walkup in London, shivering and broke, but believing that you were building a new life and would find your way.

“Don’t carry around the shame your parents or the church or society gave you,” you told me as you wrote your poetry, and your novels, as you hiked through the great fields of Oxford with Jack, falling in love.


When you lived in a seaside shack with other single women, sharing a kitchen and waiting for the next phase of your life to start you show us how staying in an abusive situation tears away at our self-esteem. Your life reminds us that no matter how much we think we can fix anyone by being good and perfect, we can’t fix anyone but ourselves.

Thank you, Joy for showing us that we can change our lives even though we are scared – courage and strength can be mixed with fear.

With your life, you show us that each time we acquiesce to something we know we should not, we hide our true self and cause our soul great damage. You remind us that obsession for men’s approval will never gain lasting love. When you realised that you were dying from metastatic breast cancer, you remind us that denying our own self-care helps no one at all. We must be our own advocate.

I wonder if you ever read Thomas Merton and what he had to say about our “hidden wholeness”, because you seem to tap into that truth as built a new life in England with your sons, your art and your intelligent curiosity.


And, Joy! How the passion for your creative life shows us how we must express ourselves in the world. You seem to say — Don’t stop. Ever. For anyone or anything.

You seem to whisper to us over and over to never take the crumbs off any man’s table. While you burst through the bonds of expectation on a quest for the truth, taking the chance that your life would crumble or be one new again, I cheered for you.

You changed the story of your life. You didn’t let anyone else define you or stop you from becoming who you were meant to be, and loving the man meant for you.

Helen Joy Davidman Lewis, you changed your life and therefore changed ours.

With Great Love,

—Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, published by Harper Inspire, is out now.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis (Paperback)


Learn More About BECOMING


Follow the Journey with Joy and Patti

View original article: RedMagazine by Patti Callahan 10/06/2019

About Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times best-selling author of fourteen novels, including the historical fiction, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS—The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Her fifteenth novel, THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER, (Southern Contemporary Fiction) will be published June 4, 2019, and available now.

A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband. Read More


"Making full use of historical documentation, Callahan has created an incredible portrait of a complex woman.” —PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY Starred Review

“Mesmerizing.” —BOOKLIST review

"It's not supposed to be a technical biography of my mother. It's a novel. And it's a very good one. . . extraordinarily accurate. . . more accurate than most biographical essays that have been written about my mother." — Douglas Gresham, son of Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis.

"Patti Callahan took a character on the periphery, one who has "historically taken a back seat to her male counterpart, and given her a fierce, passionate voice. For those fans of Lewis curious about the woman who inspired A Grief Observed this book offers a convincing, fascinating glimpse into the private lives of two very remarkable individuals."

—New York Journal of Books

“Patti Callahan Henry seems to have found the story she was born to tell." —Paula McClain, NYT Bestselling author of The Paris Wife

“I was swept along….entirely beguiled.”

— Lisa Wingate, NYT Bestselling author of Before We Were Yours.

“A DEEPLY MOVING STORY …transformative and magical.” —Pam Jenoff, NYT Bestselling

author of The Orphans Tale

“An intimate and daring literary achievement.”

—Charles Martin, NYT bestselling author of The Mountain Between Us

"Patti Callahan breathes life into this fascinating woman whose hunger for knowledge leads her to buck tradition at every turn." —Diane Chamberlain, NYT bestselling author of The Dream Daughter

About Red Magazine

Hearst Magazines UK

Red Magazine brings you the best things in life. It has gorgeous fashion (which you can wear!), expert health and beauty advice, inspirational entertaining and interiors, and brilliant, intelligent writing on issues that matter to you.


1 comentário

Membro desconhecido
14 de dez. de 2022

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!

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