Review: Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis

Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. LewisJoy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don’t groan, because I mean it: I was surprised by Joy. What a tragic and amazing life! It is truly a travesty that this story has not been told in this depth and detail before. The writing was perfect. The narrative was paced just right, the prose was smooth and even beautiful, and the perspective was neither hagiographical nor dismissive of its subject. Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis was a remarkable woman whose sins were as prodigious as her gifts. And yet the grace of God extends as far as you and me, why not to her?

As a huge Lewis fan and reader of multiple biographies about the man, I had absorbed a picture of Joy as, yes, a divorcée—but one whose terrible husband somewhat justified her flight from him. The reality is far more complex, and much worse for Joy’s (and therefore Lewis’) reputations. And I can’t deny that the Debra Winberg character in Shadowlands, brashly calling out Jack’s name in a men-only room on their first meeting, had also displaced reality in my mind, even though I knew it was a fictionalized telling. Joy was brash, for sure, but I simply did not know how precocious, brilliant, and accomplished she was.

I was thoroughly taken by this biography. I devoured it in every spare moment. My love of Lewis drew me in, but a love for Joy came to suffuse my reading, too. I liked her. Reading her biography quickly became an unmitigated pleasure.


The reader, Bernadette Dunne, was the best I’ve ever heard in an audio book, changing her voice subtly during direct quotes, reading with the life and verve of Joy. She *became* Joy, even Lewis, when called upon, but not ostentatiously. (I did prefer Dunne at triple speed.)

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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