And God Came In, Lyle W. Dorsett. ???November 1984, Ballantine Books, 148pp. Paperback.
And God Came In chronicles the life of Joy Davidman Lewis with a devotion and precision one would expect only from a close friend or family member. This 148-page journey begins in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1915 and concludes 45 years later in the English countryside. Yet the author, Lyle W. Dorsett is neither relative nor friend to Joy Davidman. The care with which he unfolds the details of her life can be explained only by the author’s conviction that Joy Davidman was unquestionably a person worth knowing. This reader’s attention was captured immediately by the strength of that conviction.
After reading but a few pages, I found it not at all odd that I should care whether the Davidman family moved out of the Lower East Side and into the Bronx (at that time a sure sign of upward mobility!). I had been introduced to a child prodigy, a headstrong Jewish girl who at once possessed an exquisite imagination and a photographic memory. How perfectly natural it seemed to want to know more about her?Ç”her family, her upbringing, her future. Mr. Dorsett presents the reader with box seats from which to view the drama of Joy Davidman’s life.
And God Came In is not a religious book, at least not in the conventional sense of the word religious.” Approximately halfway through the book, Joy becomes a Christian. This is a rather unexpected turn of events, considering the dominant factors of her upbringing, not the least of which is her Jewish background. The description of her “conversion” is surprisingly brief and, perhaps for that reason, it is most powerful.
The point at which Joy Davidman embraces the Christian faith does not become a turning point in the overall tone of the book. Her decision is not couched in sanctimonious terminology, nor is it used as a soapbox sermon to convert the reader. The author conveys quite clearly the message that the heart need not?Ç”in fact, should not?Ç”be divorced from the intellect. The strength of his point is not in literary rhetoric, but in the telling of Joy Davidman’s story. It is the story of a woman of superior intellect and heartfelt passion. The reader may not choose to embrace the Christian faith, but may find him or herself questioning stereotypes in light of this exceptional woman.
Old photographs, interviews with family and countless friends, and a profound respect for the subject enable the author to bring life and movement to this biography. His succinct style is easy to read but not condescending, and the book should be read in one sitting in order to appreciate its full impact.
A selling point to some readers is that Joy Davidman eventually was married to C. S. Lewis, a prominent philologist and Christian writer. Lewis is perhaps best known by non-Christians for his series of children’s books entitled The Chronicles of Narnia. For those who may be curious about Joy Davidman’s husband after reading And God Came In, this reviewer suggests reading Mr. Lewis’s autobiography, entitled Surprised by Joy.