The Dearly Beloved

The Dearly Beloved

by Cara Wall


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“A moving portrait of love and friendship set against a backdrop of social change.” The New York Times

“Here is the power of the novel in its simplest, richest for: bearing intimate witness to human beings grappling with their faith and falling in love. That Wall executes it so beautifully? Well, this is exactly why we read literary fiction...The best book about faith in recent memory.” —Entertainment Weekly (A-)

“When I began reading The Dearly Beloved I braced for piety, worried it might be a book only a believer could appreciate. Instead, I found myself carried along by Cara Wall’s luminous prose, and then by these characters and their stories. I saw myself in their doubts, in their hopes. There is no moralizing here, only empathy. When I arrived at the end I felt absolutely lifted by the spirit of the story.” —Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences however, threaten to tear them apart.

Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily—fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern—after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?

James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James's escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.

In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church’s congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982104528
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 966
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Cara Wall is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Stanford University. While at Iowa, Cara taught fiction writing in the undergraduate creative writing department as well as at the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio in her capacity of founder and inaugural director. She went on to teach middle school English and history and has been published by Glamour, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in New York City with her family and The Dearly Beloved is her first novel.

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The Dearly Beloved 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 16 hours ago
This novel is easily the best book I've read this year -- and that's a huge compliment because I typically read 2 or 3 books a week. Faith, family, and friendship are themes I treasure in a book. All three of these ideas come vividly to life in the stories of two deeply committed couples who eventually struggle together as the husbands minister in a NYC church in the 1960s. I would love to be able to talk to the author about how she gained such keen insights into these themes, especially the impact of childhood grief and the religious struggles that all of the characters experience. I eagerly await Cara Wall's next book.Cheri Burton, Roanoke VA
QuirkyCat 1 days ago
The Dearly Beloved is the debut novel of Cara Well. It’s also irrefutable proof that sometimes a work of love can truly turn into something great. Cara Well spent fifteen years working on this novel to get it to this point. And it truly shows. This is a poignant and touching novel, written beautifully and polished to shine. The novel is set in the 1950s and follows two couples through their journeys and interactions with one another. The first couple are two opposites destined for one another; Charles a believer through and through, with an unshakable faith in his religion; and Lily, a determined non-believer yet sweet and tenacious. Then there’s the second couple, a pair who are also a perfect match; James, a minister intent to do everything he can to save and help others; and Nan, a religious woman who is kind and caring. These four find themselves crossing paths with increasing frequency thanks to their paths in life. The story follows them from their earlier years up through to the bittersweet moments – and everything in between. It’s a novel that studies human nature and interaction. It’s sweet, it’s beautiful. And at times it’s heartbreaking. But it is never anything but perfectly honest. I honestly don’t normally read books with such a heavy religious tone, but there was something about Cara Well’s writing that captivated me. It was all so beautifully written that I couldn’t do anything but read on. And I’m so very glad I did.
DeediReads 3 days ago
The Dearly Beloved is a masterpiece of literary fiction. There’s not a word out of place. It’s a gorgeous examination of what it means to exist side by side. I was hypnotized, heartbroken from the first page. There are four characters: - Charles, who grew up in an intellectual, university family and finds himself hit with a sudden, visceral calling to become a minister while studying history - Lily, whose parents died when she was young, and so she buried herself in a life of risk-free isolation - James, whose father dealt with his post-war PTSD by drinking heavily, and who just wants to escape that life for himself - Nan, the daughter of a southern minister whose life has come easily, but whose faith and love for other people is strong The first section follows Charles and Lily, and James and Nan, as they grow up, meet, and start their lives together. Then Charles and James are hired as co-pastors at the same Greenwich Village church, and their lives are irrevocably intertwined. We follow them all the way from childhood to middle age, and beyond. This is not a book about religion; it’s a book about people whose lives are touched by religion. Charles and Nan believe in God whole-heartedly, James is unsure, and Lily does not believe in God at all. But the way that these characters fit together inside and around these differences in faith, and how they grow through it, is much more the focus than the idea of God itself. This is also not a book centered on plot. It’s a book centered on the way people fit together like notches, and the way they grind against each other’s sharp edges at the same time. It’s about love between man and wife, man and friend, woman and not-friend, woman and friend, parents and children, people and their God. It’s about what it means to be human, to be a person in the world, one who loves and fears and hopes and cries. It’s the kind of novel that makes you feel like you need to exhale all the air in your chest.
LHill2110 6 days ago
A slow-paced, deeply interior book about love, marriage, and faith. It follows a linear progression through the lives of four individuals, two marriages, and a forty-year shared ministry. The real center of the book is the place of God in people’s lives. Each character has his or her own relationship (or lack thereof) with God: Charles knows absolutely that there is a God and that he has a calling to the ministry; his wife Lily is equally certain that there is no God and has no affinity with the tasks expected of a minister’s wife, preferring an academic life. Nan is a minister’s daughter and has never questioned her faith; James is not religious and has doubts about God, but feels the ministry would be a good platform for his drive towards social justice. As each character grows into his or her life and faces difficulties both large and small, God is at the center of many thoughts and actions and is present on most pages. This was surprisingly non-repetitious, and the arguments, discussions, reflections, and historical references were balanced and intriguing, even to someone like myself who has no interest in religion. The characters are all very earnest — even in their doubt and questioning, there is no cynicism (or any humor which I’m now realizing is often predicated on cynicism). It was somewhat refreshing and made me realize how very cynical the world feels today and how it wasn’t always that way. The prose is beautiful, though at times over wrought. It is a philosophical and reflective look at life and marriage and documents the details of a healthy approach to personal growth — listening, discussing, reflecting, and resolution. I was initially quite put off by the number of references to God and faith — it really isn’t my thing — but I found myself quite taken by the four individuals and their personal quests for understanding and a fulfilling life. I learned quite a bit more than I expected.
The_Wright_Reader 6 days ago
The Dearly Beloved is a love letter to a life of ministry, and to those who minister, specifically in a church setting. It is told from a secular worldview, but handles the themes of community, loyalty, faith, commitment and especially calling, with a knowledge so true that I found myself nodding and underlining all the way through because I live this life everyday and I appreciate the loving yet honest picture of it portrayed by the author. Beautifully written and well plotted, it is the story of two couples and the road that leads them to a church in which they will eventually serve together for 40 years. Beginning in their teens, the characters are developed gently, but with a definite forward draw, until Nan and James and Lilly and Charles find themselves married and called by Third Presbyterian Church in New York City to be co-pastors. The church had lost its way and deeply desired to follow its pastors as they led it back. The work ahead of them is well defined and the God who leads them is clearly acknowledged, though not all of the 4 main characters acknowledge God. I adored the no-nonsense wisdom of the long-serving church secretary as she led the two green ministers to take charge and love their people. I appreciated the way the author dealt with the changing culture and how Charles and James dealt with issues both within and outside of the church walls. I loved the relationship between the two pastors' wives' which was most of the time prickly, but all of the time honest. This book may well be the best I've read all year and absolutely the richest reading experience since Marilyn Robinson's Gilead. . This is not a perfect novel but it is a true one in so many ways. I had a sense that the reading of this work deserved a slow thoughtful pace but I was unable to slow down because I cared too much for each character and the church to take my time and savor the tale. I cannot wait for more from this debut author. What a talent! I happily accepted an early copy of this book from Simon & Schuster for an honest review via NetGalley.
Anonymous 9 days ago
The Dearly Beloved is the first novel by Cara Wall; I am pretty certain that it will not be her last. The Dearly Beloved is the story of Charles, Lily, James and Nan. Each is an adult with a unique upbringing. Charles has faced many parental expectations; Lily has suffered much loss; James had a hardscrabble background, while life seemed sweet for Nan. While in college, Charles and Lily meet as do James and Nan. Both Charles and James are "called" to the church; they have different approaches to God and activism, as demonstrated over the course of the book. Charles and James are appointed as co-ministers of a New York City church on lower Fifth Avenue. Their strengths and weaknesses come to light and are not the same. The reader watches as the two families' lives unravel and knit over a period of many years. This book includes discussion about what faith (or lack of it) means to each protagonist. I found these sections enhanced the novel for me. This is not perhaps a perfect book, just as James, Charles, Nan and Lily are not prefect but it IS might good. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e galley in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 10 days ago
I so enjoyed this story of two couples and their lives together and their journeys as individuals. The book is very readable and at the same time has a wonderful depth as it follows the faith journeys of the characters. I appreciated the lack of cliche’ answers or too easy resolutions. Highly recommend. I received an advance copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
JW88 11 days ago
The Dearly Beloved is a beautifully written story about the complex relationship of two couples. Charles and Lilly and James and Nan have been brought together when the men are assigned as ministers of the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, New York in 1963. The four individuals are from varied backgrounds well described by the author. As the reader, I was fully immersed into the lives of the characters as they experience the joy of new love, the isolation and despair of loss, and the sometimes difficult journey of introspection and enlightenment. The book challenges the reader to think about faith - what it personally means to each of us, and how to better ourselves as compassionate humans to care for one another. The dynamic between the women in particular was intriguing. I appreciated the compassion the women provided to each other when most needed, as well as the insight and leadership provided to the ministers during times of turbulence in the congregation. I very much appreciated the author’s writing style. It is poetic and thought-provoking: qualities that make the reader savour what is written and not to simply read for its entertainment value. The book is moving and memorable. I look forward to reading more of Cara Wall’s work. Thank you to Netgalley and Simon Schuster for the ARC in exchange for the honest review provided here.