For all the great lovers of stories everywhere, most would have a list of favorites they may have read in childhood that continued to be a part of them well into adulthood. Some stories are like that, and the greatest story tellers are ones we go back to again and again. For many of us that would include the works of C.S. Lewis and most especially his famous Narnia series. The one we know the best is the one we often read first, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The series sold the most of the more than 30 books that C.S. Lewis wrote during the twentieth century.
No matter how old we are, the stories have had a magical quality about them and captured our hearts. They show us the world as it is with both good and bad, heroes and villains.
“Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.”C.S. Lewis
If you are a lover of C.S. Lewis, you will not want to miss reading Patti Callahan’s newest book, Once Upon A Wardrobe. Lover of Lewis and all things Narnia, Callahan captured something special about C.S. Lewis in her book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis that tells the story of his relationship with Joy Davidman who became his wife. But for Narnia lovers so many questions about the meaning of Narnia and the series’ themes have remained. What did C.S. Lewis want us to see in these stories?
Once Upon A Wardrobe will capture your heart and imagination from the first lines of this wonderful tale because one of the main characters in the story, Megs Devonshire, is on a quest to find the answer to those very questions. Megs is 17 and a student at Oxford studying physics and all things factual, but her tender heart is knitted to her 8- year-old brother, George, living in Worcestershire, England. George knows already that he does not have long to live because of a heart condition he was born with. Most of his days are spent in his room in bed surrounded by pill bottles. But amid the pillows, bottles, teacups, and glasses of water is a newly published book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The lion on the cover drew him in and as he reads this C.S. Lewis book. But reading the book impacts George beyond anything he could have imagined. It pulled him beyond his bed into the world of Narnia.
George’s excitement about the book makes him eager to share it with Megs when she comes home from university. Megs has never been one for stories (especially fairy stories) because she is always looking at facts and equations to be solved, but when George asks her to help him find out where Narnia and its characters came from Megs cannot refuse him despite her doubts. George asks her to read it to him and convinces her this is a quest she must not refuse.
Once Upon A Wardrobe takes you along on Megs’ quest to bless her brother with answers to all his questions. She loves him dearly and would do anything for him. So when she learns C.S. Lewis lives not far from her university she decides to go to the author to find the truth about this story. She is not optimistic about what she will learn because she knows of course that fairy stories are not real and yet for the love of George, she knows she must try. So, she finds out where C.S. Lewis lives and hides on the property of The Kilns hoping to meet him.
Megs’ dismissal of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a simple children’s story comes from her conviction that the universe is held together by numbers and equations, but Lewis challenges her in the story and says, “I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think the world is held together by stories, not all the equations you stare at.”
And so, Megs begins to visit C.S. Lewis and his brother, Warnie, often and then scurries to write down all she learns in a notebook she reads to George when she goes home to visit him. Time and time again she hopes to learn the truth she believes – that Narnia is not and never has been real – but what began as a quest to bless George becomes something far more for Megs. The author of this grand tale takes Megs on an adventure that changes her view of stories.
At the end of the book a note by Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’ stepson offers these words:
“In this amazing book Patti’s portrayal of my stepfather, C.S. Lewis, or ‘Jack’ as he preferred to be known, comes once more to life, and he shows a very full understanding of what is needed to make us understand a little less carelessly, what the world expects of us – no, indeed, demands of us – until finally we get there! I advise you to read this book, then wait for a while and read it again. For while it may not be Narnia, there is magic in it, and that deeply moved me.”Douglas Gresham
Patti Callahan’s gift of storytelling in Once Upon A Wardrobe is as magical as the Narnia stories and when you come to the end of the book, you will want to start it all over again and go on your own adventure because this is one book you will visit again and again.
“Good stories introduce the marvelous. The whole story, paradoxically, strengthens our relish for real life. This excursion sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual world. It provides meaning.”Patti Callahan