After you first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, did you ever check the back of a closet in the faint hope of finding Narnia? I know I looked. In this story when college student Megs Devonshire finds her eight-year-old brother sitting in his wardrobe, she asks him why, and he tells her he is looking for Narnia.
This book, Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan, is set in 1950 England, the same year C.S. Lewis’s book was first published. Between the title of this book and the cover featuring a lamp post and a lion image, I was immediately attracted to this book and eagerly opened the first page. Another Narnia tale!
Although the reader knows more books will be coming in the series from Lewis Megs and her brother George do not. He is homebound because he was born with an ineffective heart. Surgeries today could probably help him, but the technology wasn’t available back then.
[Spoiler alert] George waits for death before he turns nine.
In the meantime, the Narnian book has captured his attention. He has one question for Megs, “Where did Narnia come from?” He wants to know if the land truly exists. This is the driving question of the book. Since his sister is a math student at Oxford University, he insists she ask the author. C.S. Lewis is a professor of literature there.
Because she loves her brother, Megs does go to the professor with the question, but instead of answering, he tells her about his life.
As I started this book, I did something I have never done in my over fifty years of reading; I wrote down quotes that touched me deeply. The first one was on page 13 when George tells his math-minded sister, “‘I think the world is held together by stories, not all those equations you stare at.’” This is a belief I as a writer I deeply share. Page 25 produced this quote from a note written to the heroine, “My dear Miss Devonshire, whoever told you Narnia isn’t real?”
[Spoiler Alert] I wrote down many more quotes but I think the answer to the book’s question of where did Narnia come from is answered on page 278 “I always believed that if we can find our way to Narnia, we can find our way home.”
This book made me smile with happiness, feel joy, and cry with heartbreak. It is a tremendous story full of wisdom, and I highly recommend it to any reader looking for Narnia.