“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. \n
The Dearle Beloved
Terrible Slow. Boring.
Will go down as an all time favorite.
Inspiring. Beautiful, quotable prose. And an engaging story. You won’t want to miss this.