Lewis’S Letters To A Widower

A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken (Harper & Row, 1977, 238 pp., $6.95). is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, assistant editor,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

About twenty years ago Sheldon Vanauken’s wife Davy died of liver failure. She was in her thirties. This moving story recounts Vanauken’s life with her, and the death of their earthly love. It also tells how these two pagan lovers are converted, partly through the influence of C. S. Lewis.

At the beginning of their love, Vanauken and Davy erect a Shining Barrier, a wall to keep out anything that might come between them—other people, children, careers—anything that the two of them couldn’t share together. If one of them read a book, the other read it, too, or they read it together. Incredibly, even the books they had read separately before they met and married were read by the other. They planned the kind of life many lovers dream of but never realize. Even World War II did not come between them. Right before they were to leave on a honeymoon to Florida Vanauken was called to active duty and was sent to Pearl Harbor. Three months later—the couple’s longest separation—Davy joined him. When the war ended they picked up where they left off—and went to Florida. They lived on and sailed in a small sloop, only coming to shore long enough to earn money for more jaunts. Vanauken wrote stories for a yachting magazine.

From Florida they moved to Yale, and then to Virginia, and finally to Oxford, where something unforeseen happened to breach their Shining Barrier. Christ entered their lives. And with him, or perhaps before him, C. S. Lewis. The couple became fast friends with the man who influenced them for ...

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