“This gentle, gorgeously written book may be one of my favorites ever.” —Jenna Bush Hager (A Today show “Read with Jenna” Book Club Selection!)
This “moving portrait of love and friendship set against a backdrop of social change” (The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice) traces two married couples whose lives become entangled when the husbands become copastors at a famed New York city congregation in the 1960s.
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, Cara wall reminds us of “the power of the novel in its simplest, richest form: bearing intimate witness to human beings grappling with their faith and falling in love,” (Entertainment Weekly, A-) as 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, Wall offers a poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives. The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Cara Wall’s beautiful novel will make you feel better about humankind. The story follows two ministers, James and Charles, who are tapped to lead a church in New York City starting in the late ’60s. The two men forge a lifelong friendship built upon their shared spiritual and intellectual passions, but their wives have a much harder path. Nan is a preacher’s daughter who’s in her element organizing Sunday school and charity events; Lily is a fiercely independent academic and a nonbeliever. We felt enriched by our encounters with Wall’s complicated characters and their emotional journeys. The Dearly Beloved made us reflect on the thorny intersections between faith, disillusionment, despair, and hope.
Wall's sensitive, deliberate debut examines the intersecting lives of two couples through years in which they alternately clash and support each other. In the politically volatile 1960s, reserved upper-class Charles and streetwise Chicagoan James are selected to be co-pastors at a Presbyterian church in New York. Like it or not, their wives are thrown together as well. While the two men complement each other, their wives often clash. Charles's wife, Lily a feminist, atheist academic who was orphaned as a teenager shuns both the church and the company of James's wife, Nan, a sociable Mississippian who was raised as the daughter of a minister and with a strong faith of her own. Rather than simply throwing all these strong personalities together, Wall slowly and carefully builds the history and point of view of each individual and then each new couple. By creating such well-defined characters, she is able to all the more effectively explore the role of faith, or its lack, in dealing with the pressures of marriage, child-rearing, and work, as one couple faces the fact that they may not have the children they want and the other deals with a child with special needs. This is a story in which religion is central to the plot and the actions of the characters, but in which the author stands back from taking sides in the battle. It's a rare and intellectually stimulating outing.
thought provoking and character driven
THE DEARLY BELOVED by Cara Wall follows the lives of four people, two couples and their relationships both in and out of the church.
Told from third person perspectives THE DEARLY BELOVED, set against the turbulent times of the 50s, 60s and 70s- following the end World War II, the Korean War, and the drama and protestations of the Vietnam conflict-THE DEARLY BELOVED is a story of opposites attract including the opposition to church and faith. Lily lost her parents at the age of fifteen, and in the ensuing aftermath walked away from church and God. Meeting Charles, a devout man with aspirations of the cloth found Lily struggling with a direction in life, a direction that would take Lily towards a path in opposition to her husband’s faith, and those of the Church for which he attends.
Nan grew up following the preachings and ministry of her beloved father but never expected to fall in love with a man who struggles with his faith. Charles’ earlier years brought with it the pain of hardship and the aftermath of war, but a life focusing on God gave Charles a purpose and a path, albeit a path that meandered both in and out of the spiritual belief.
THE DEARLY BELOVED is not a story of God and religion, but a story of faith, doubt and belief. Both couples will struggle with family, friendships, and acceptance. Lily is a woman intent on following a path of protests and equal rights, while Nan battles to accept that Lily will never be the friend she was hoping to find.
Cara Wall’s story will resonate with readers regardless of their religious beliefs. A journey of four unlikely friends, whose personal relationships, are in opposition to their professional lives, THE DEARLY BELOVED is a thought provoking and character driven story about the humanity of faith ( as religion is a man-made construct); the conflict and arrogance of a belief system that seemingly goes against the reality of the world; and the promise of acceptance, the optimism and judgment, and the perception that faith, belief and prayer are the balm to a world in pain and sin.
There are struggles and battles, a crisis of confidence between man and God, and a crisis of faith between man and church. The character development of Nan and Lily is lacking, to some degree, as neither one is willing to accept that which they do not understand including the belief in, or lack of belief in a higher power, while James and Charles waiver in their own beliefs as the personal struggles and hardships of both couples come to fruition.
“I didn’t marry a minister, I married the man.’ (Lily)
I read this for a book club. I found it very slow moving. Nothing really happened. I found the different perspectives on faith interesting and was reminded how deeply personal faith is. No two people have the same faith journey. Overall the book was cute. I’m interested to hear what the other people in my book club will think. It’s an easy simple read, but probably not something I’d recommend.