A Severe Mercy

Vanauken, Sheldon

Published by Harper & Row, 1977
ISBN 10: 0060688211 / ISBN 13: 9780060688219
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Synopsis: C. S. Lewis was their mentor and friend. When tragedy struck, he became their guide and a comforter of piercing insight and compassion. His letters are carefully preserved and reproduced in this moving account of the extraordinary love between Sheldon Vanauken and Jean Davis. This beautiful tale bears witness not only to the relationship between Van and Davy, but to the understanding which grew between two men who both had to suffer the severe pain of loss.

Review: A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, is a heart-rending love story described by its author as "the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than of the lovers." Vanauken chronicles the birth of a powerful pagan love borne out of the relationship he shares with his wife, Davy, and describes the growth of their relationship and the dreams that they share. As a symbol of their love, they name their dream schooner the Grey Goose, "for the grey goose, if its mate is killed flies on alone and never takes another."

While studying at Oxford, Sheldon and Davy develop a friendship with C.S. Lewis, under whose influence and with much intellectual scrutiny they accept the Christian doctrine. As their devotion to God intensifies, Sheldon realizes that he is no longer Davy's primary love--God is. Within this discovery begins a brewing jealousy.

Shortly after, Davy acquires a fatal illness. After her death Sheldon embarks on an intense experience of grief, "to find the meaning of it, taste the whole of it ... to learn from sorrow whatever it had to teach." Through painstaking reveries, he comes to discover the meaning of "a mercy as severe as death, a severity as merciful as love." He learns that her death "had these results: It brought me as nothing else could do to know and end my jealously of God. It saved her faith from assault. ...And it saved our love from perishing."

Replete with 18 letters from C.S. Lewis, A Severe Mercy addresses some of the universal questions that surround faith--the existence of God and the reasons behind tragedy. --Jacque Holthusen

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Title: A Severe Mercy
Publisher: Harper & Row
Publication Date: 1977
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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