The 50Plus Book of the Month for October, chosen by Andrea Peskind Katz from Great Thoughts, Great Readers is:
An impeccably well-researched piece of historical fiction…
Once Upon a Wardrobe is an impeccably well-researched historical fiction book that stems from Patti Callahan’s immense passion for C.S. Lewis. She transports us into the early years of C.S. Lewis and the pivotal moments in his life that inspired him to write the masterful Narnia books. We learn the story through a fictional boy and his beloved sister.
George is a nine-year-old boy with a fatal heart condition who has much time to devote to reading and thinking. His fragile health limits his experiences to what he can do from his bed. George becomes deeply invested in the newly released Narnia book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. His devotion reaches a fever pitch when he realizes his beloved college-aged sister, Meg, attends the same campus where the author teaches. Though not given to the flights of fancy that consume her brother, Meg will do most anything to bring him joy.
Thus, Meg finds herself covered in snow and quite literally stalking the author. All is well for Meg though, as she is welcomed into the enclave created by C.S. Lewis who is called Jack and his devoted brother Warnie. Meg begins her quest to find out where Narnia came from directly from Jack. It is not a simple question, and what proceeds is a deep dive into the past of the author.
Meg shares these stories about the history of Jack, and together with George attempts to make connections to the fantasy world created that is Narnia. What occurs next is difficult for all involved. George will absolutely steal your heart and hold onto you long past the ending of the book.
A parallel world of fantasy and reality
I would be remiss if I did not address the wonderful language and word pictures created by Callahan. She transported me into a parallel world of fantasy and reality reminiscent of the great C.S, Lewis himself. For those who read her other book “Becoming Mrs. Lewis”, you will again see her attention to the character foibles and depth of research into Jack fully fleshed out.
These characters will become real to you, too, and the story will definitely remind you that fairy tales are not just for children. Reading the end notes into the research conducted, and the insights from his family made this story all the more powerful.
I was provided a free advance reader copy from Harper Muse in exchange for my honest review. The opinions shared in this review are my own.
About the author:
Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. Patti is also a contributor to the weekly life lesson essay column for Parade Magazine. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.