The Dearly Beloved

The Dearly Beloved

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...

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Title:The Dearly Beloved
Author:Cara Wall
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The Dearly Beloved Reviews

  • Robin

    This is a stunning debut novel taking place in the 1950s and 1960s featuring Charles, who has a steadfast belief in God; his wife Lily, resolute in her non-belief; James, who joins the ministry to do worldly good; and his wife Nan, devout and sweet. Their lives become entangled when Charles and James are hired as co-pastors at a New York City Presbyterian church, and over the years struggle through faith and beliefs, and marriage and friendship conflicts.

    I don’t often gravitate towards books wi

    This is a stunning debut novel taking place in the 1950s and 1960s featuring Charles, who has a steadfast belief in God; his wife Lily, resolute in her non-belief; James, who joins the ministry to do worldly good; and his wife Nan, devout and sweet. Their lives become entangled when Charles and James are hired as co-pastors at a New York City Presbyterian church, and over the years struggle through faith and beliefs, and marriage and friendship conflicts.

    I don’t often gravitate towards books with religious themes, but the author's writing was so engaging, and she was so fair in presenting both sides without judgment or bias toward any belief system that I didn't want to stop reading about these people and their church families. It also had a satisfying epilogue. And yes, a few tissues were needed to get through the last few chapters. This fabulous novel is an easy choice for my best books of 2019 list.

    This is a perfect selection for book groups as there is something for everyone to love with much fodder for discussion. It is very reminiscent of Wallace Stegner’s "Crossing to Safety" and also reminded me of Susanna Daniel’s "Stiltsville," both excellent portrayals of long marriages. I would also recommend this to fans of Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout.

    4-9-19 - Updated information: I just found the original letter sent by the publisher that states Cara Wall spent more than 15 years writing this book and based it on 1st Presbyterian church in NYC, of which she is a long-time member.

    Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for the early galley copy (publication date August 2019).

  • Laura G (lauralovestoread)

    “𝙳𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍,” 𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚊𝚗. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚎𝚍𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜, 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚋𝚊𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚖𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚑𝚞𝚛𝚌𝚑 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍, 𝚜𝚘 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚔𝚎 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚊𝚝 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚠 𝚝𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝.”

    —𝙲𝚊𝚛𝚊 𝚆𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙳𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝙱𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍

    I’m still somewhat processing my feelings with this book, but it definitely pulled at my emotions and gently pushed the issues of religion, which I’ve rarely seen done so eloquently before.

    The Dearly Beloved is a debut novel, with the woven story of friendship, grief, love, fai

    “𝙳𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍,” 𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚊𝚗. 𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚎𝚍𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜, 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚋𝚊𝚙𝚝𝚒𝚜𝚖𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚌𝚑𝚞𝚛𝚌𝚑 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍, 𝚜𝚘 𝚍𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚙𝚘𝚔𝚎 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚊𝚝 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚠 𝚝𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝.”

    —𝙲𝚊𝚛𝚊 𝚆𝚊𝚕𝚕, 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙳𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚕𝚢 𝙱𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍

    I’m still somewhat processing my feelings with this book, but it definitely pulled at my emotions and gently pushed the issues of religion, which I’ve rarely seen done so eloquently before.

    The Dearly Beloved is a debut novel, with the woven story of friendship, grief, love, faith, doubt, and perseverance. I knew little about this book other than it involved two couples that would meet through their husbands line of work as pastors. I quickly fell in love with the stories of James, Charles, Lily and Nan, as I learned of their pasts, wondering how they would meet.

    I did have a few moments where I didn’t love some of the characters, and felt disconnected, but they drew me back in, and I ended this book with a full heart.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5 stars!

    *Thank you to the publisher for this free copy. All opinions are my own

  • Tish

    Have you ever finished a book, and your foremost reaction is that it was a privilege to have read it? That is how I felt about this book.

    Most writers are great at entertaining and storytelling. But then there are a few elite authors that just GET humans. It is clear that Cara Wall is an elite author. Ms. Wall has crafted a cast of completely different characters that are each so relatable. I have never identified so strongly with a character as I did with Lily. I have a new answer to “Who is you

    Have you ever finished a book, and your foremost reaction is that it was a privilege to have read it? That is how I felt about this book.

    Most writers are great at entertaining and storytelling. But then there are a few elite authors that just GET humans. It is clear that Cara Wall is an elite author. Ms. Wall has crafted a cast of completely different characters that are each so relatable. I have never identified so strongly with a character as I did with Lily. I have a new answer to “Who is your favorite literary character?”

    I don’t want to go into the plot; not only is the book description pretty thorough, when I read saga’s like The Dearly Beloved, I like the tale to unfold for me as it does for the characters. I absolutely do not want any spoilers. But I will say this- do not pass this up because you don’t want to be “preached at”, because it doesn’t happen in this book.

    This was an ARC, but I assure you, I will buy this the day it comes out. It will be reread, dog-eared, and covered in marginalia.

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Basic B's Guide

    The Dearly Beloved is a stunningly thoughtful debut about two couples and their journey through life together. The couples meet when the men are jointly hired as co-pastors for the Third Presbyterian Church. Yes, this is a book about faith, but do not be deterred. I know faith and fiction can be a tricky one but Wall has managed it brilliantly with imperfect characters. Whether you are a firm believer, still searching or a non-believer you will find this story impossible to turn away from.

    I love

    The Dearly Beloved is a stunningly thoughtful debut about two couples and their journey through life together. The couples meet when the men are jointly hired as co-pastors for the Third Presbyterian Church. Yes, this is a book about faith, but do not be deterred. I know faith and fiction can be a tricky one but Wall has managed it brilliantly with imperfect characters. Whether you are a firm believer, still searching or a non-believer you will find this story impossible to turn away from.

    I loved the juxtaposition of each couple and their faith journey. I saw a little of myself in each of these complex characters. Charles is calm, strong and steadfast in his faith. James is loyal, hopeful and is driven by guilt and the need for change. Nan is the nurturer and a tad naïve. Lily is stubborn, independent and determined. Charles and Lily, James and Nan. Each of these characters hold a special place in my bookish heart and I’m so sad to say goodbye.

    I’m thanking my lucky stars that this debut may its way into my hands and I’m thrilled that I can help do that for one of you. Please take a chance with this one as I’m dying to discuss this with everyone.

    “The only advice I can give anyone is this,” he said. “Don’t ever shrink from those last trials. Run to them. Because only in the quality of your struggle with each other will you learn anything about yourself. Sometimes that struggle is nearly impossible to survive, but it is those trials which make a life.”

    A portrait of character, hardships, friendship, faith and love, I give this story 5 glowing stars. This book has touched my heart and soul and rightly sits at the top of my 2019 favorites.

  • Jodie

    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 somet

    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.

  • Bandit

    What a lovely book this turned out to be. A serious complex gorgeously told dramatic work of fiction following two couples for decades through all the trials and tribulations of their lives. Charles and James are connected through their work, when they become co ministers of a New York City church. But we meet them before that, when they are young men, we follow them through college, as they discover their calling and fall in love and look for their place in the rapidly changing world of the ear

    What a lovely book this turned out to be. A serious complex gorgeously told dramatic work of fiction following two couples for decades through all the trials and tribulations of their lives. Charles and James are connected through their work, when they become co ministers of a New York City church. But we meet them before that, when they are young men, we follow them through college, as they discover their calling and fall in love and look for their place in the rapidly changing world of the early 1960s. Charles and James are very different, both as ministers and as men, but their differences mesh well together, allowing for a great friendship and working relationship. Their wives, though, are different in a way that can’t be reconciled, which creates for some turbulence throughout the years. Charles marries an emotionally distant academic who doesn’t share his faith, James marries a wealthy Southerner, a preacher’s daughter, a devout family minded woman who thrives in a church environment. Charles believes in preaching in a more traditional way, James is dead set on social reforms. All these differences lead to some fascinating dynamics and dramatic scenarios that are depicted with terrific precision and emotional intelligence. The novel contemplates the nature of love and faith and community and purpose and meaning…all the major ones and yet it stays compelling as a story, never veering into proselytizing, easy as that might have been. Or at least it does until both couples inevitably reproduce. And then it becomes also heavily about the children, the dynamics shift dramatically and, frankly, it isn’t necessarily an improvement. Charles’ wife, for one, a woman who has so valued her independence and intellectual pursuits that it actually made her a somewhat challenging spouse, especially for a minister, is effectively and immediately turned into a mother and a caretaker. She didn’t even want to have kids in the first place, but then not only does she have twins, but also one of them turns out to be severely on the spectrum (something so new it’s barely heard of in those days), so that’s pretty much her entire life from there on. Granted she’s the least likeable character in the book, by far the most contentious and not even an entirely pleasant woman, permanently shaped into emotional severity by the death of her parents when she was young. But within the context of the narrative, it’s almost as if she got punished with this kid. It’s especially noticeable because the rest of the characters, James and Nan and Charles and co. are so immediately likeable, charming and charismatic. If this was a ploy to humanize her...didn't care for it. If this was a way to make her easier to understand and care about...still, no. Surely, a person, even (gasp) a woman can have a meaning to her life without having children. So yeah, maybe the baby making, raising, etc. taking up the last third or so of the book diminished the entire experience somewhat for me, but only very marginally. I still enjoyed the book very much and I loved the way it contemplated personal faith in the grand scheme of things. A proper novel this is, intelligent, compelling, well written, and meditative and absolutely lovely. With genuinely great characters. Quite a feat, especially for a debut. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

  • Theresa

    This is a strong debut by Cara Wall. She can definitely write. Her metaphors are beautiful, and her characters are multi-dimensional and complex. This book felt relevant even though the story takes place in the '50s and '60s. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and The Vietnam War, "The Dearly Beloved" follows two married couples, Charles and Lily, and James and Nan. In the beginning chapters, we are given a rich and rewarding backstory for each character separately, from their

    This is a strong debut by Cara Wall. She can definitely write. Her metaphors are beautiful, and her characters are multi-dimensional and complex. This book felt relevant even though the story takes place in the '50s and '60s. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and The Vietnam War, "The Dearly Beloved" follows two married couples, Charles and Lily, and James and Nan. In the beginning chapters, we are given a rich and rewarding backstory for each character separately, from their childhoods, to their years at university, and to each couple meeting and falling in love.

    The main focus of this novel deals with religion, but it never feels preachy or wishy-washy. Charles and James are asked to co-minister the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village in 1963. Even though the two men come from different backgrounds, they share a love of helping people. The unlikely pair become fast friends. As for Lily and Nan, well that's a different story. For some readers, you might have a strong dislike for Lily. Even though she's married to a minister, she is an atheist. She suffered a traumatic childhood (her parents died in a car crash when she was 15). Lily is a non-believer and makes no apologies for it. Nan is the opposite of Lily. She had a perfect childhood and Lily is quick to judge Nan for that. Lily goes to great lengths to protect herself from getting hurt again. She keeps love and friendship at bay. Towards the end of the novel, Lily becomes a much more sensitive and vulnerable individual once she becomes a mother. I really liked her point-of-the view the best even though she's not warm and fuzzy. She seemed the most self-aware.

    I really liked this novel. I don't think it was perfect though. I can't really pinpoint what left me wanting more but overall, this story took me places I wasn't expecting to go. Halfway through the novel, Charles begins to question his faith, and this is when the story really came alive for me. Even though he is a man of God and conviction, he is left with uncertainty and hopelessness. I think he is the character readers are most going to relate to and root for. He is the heart and soul of this novel.

    Thank you, Simon & Schuster for sending me a free ARC, in exchange for an honest review.

    Release date: August 13, 2019.

  • Bridgette

    The Dearly Beloved is a historical novel set primarily in the 1960s that follows the lives of two couples and their struggles. Charles and Lily are one couple and James and Nan are the other. They come from various parts of the country and from various backgrounds to the Presbyterian Church in New York that Charles and James spend their careers pastoring. The backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement mirror the upheaval in the main characters’ lives in The Dearly Beloved.

    Charles

    The Dearly Beloved is a historical novel set primarily in the 1960s that follows the lives of two couples and their struggles. Charles and Lily are one couple and James and Nan are the other. They come from various parts of the country and from various backgrounds to the Presbyterian Church in New York that Charles and James spend their careers pastoring. The backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement mirror the upheaval in the main characters’ lives in The Dearly Beloved.

    Charles is the son of wealthy, erudite parents. He always thought he would follow in his parents’ footsteps until college when he felt the call to become a minister. Lily’s parent’s died when she was 15 and she wears her grief like armor, keeping everyone at bay. James grew up poor in Chicago and decided to become a minister to fight injustice. Nan grew up a minister’s daughter in Mississippi and attended Wheaton College to study music.

    With the exception of James, each of the main characters grew up relatively wealthy and privileged. Even James had a rich uncle to finance his college education. (How convenient.) I had a difficult time sympathizing with the characters for a good portion of the book because of that. However, as I got more and more deeply into the novel, I found myself more and more attached to Charles and Lily, James and Nan.

    Each of the characters is complex. They are often selfish and cruel. This is especially true of Lily, who works so hard to keep people away from her so that she doesn’t have to endure the heartache she felt when she lost her parents again. I actually despised Lily because of her terrible rudeness to just about everyone in her life. As she grew older started a family, however, Lily’s character develops into one of the most fierce, determined, admirable characters I have ever encountered. Nan, James, and Charles are similarly complex. They grow, change, doubt their faith, make terrible decisions, are cruel to one another, and it makes for captivating reading.

    The Dearly Beloved is a debut novel you do not want to miss. By the end of the novel, Charles, Lily, Nan, and James will be your dearly beloved friends.

  • Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves

    [4.5 stars]

    Thanks to Simon & Schuster for an advanced copy of this book.

    The Dearly Beloved is a yet another gorgeously written character-driven novel (we’ve been swimming in riches with these this year and I’m not mad about it!) involving two families. The writing style reminded me of Mary Beth Keane’s in Ask Again, Yes. But, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this novel in the beginning…would be it too much religion (I’m not a super religious person)? Or, too quiet? It is relatively quiet and is mo

    [4.5 stars]

    Thanks to Simon & Schuster for an advanced copy of this book.

    The Dearly Beloved is a yet another gorgeously written character-driven novel (we’ve been swimming in riches with these this year and I’m not mad about it!) involving two families. The writing style reminded me of Mary Beth Keane’s in Ask Again, Yes. But, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this novel in the beginning…would be it too much religion (I’m not a super religious person)? Or, too quiet? It is relatively quiet and is most definitely a story about the characters’ inner lives. But, it gradually got under my skin, really made me think, and I wanted to know what would happen to these people. Each character has a very different outlook on faith…making it easy to find at least one person to identify with. And, they all struggle with what exactly they believe for various reasons and they all evolve throughout the book. My one quibble is that I had a hard time keeping the characters’ backgrounds straight in the beginning, but that worked itself out as I got farther into the story. The Dearly Beloved would make an excellent book club pick and is also going on my list of character-driven novels I couldn’t put down!

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  • Diane S ☔

    A tremendously well done first novel. Two couples whose lives will become entwined for better and worse. Charles, whose faith in God is all inclusive and Lily his wife who after the loss of her parents, no longer believes. Jan, a pastors daughter, whose faith is the mainstay of her life, and her husband James, who wants to change things, so becomes a pastor for this purpose. One church, two pastors.

    This is not a subject I'm usually drawn to, liturgical matters and this is a subject that is front

    A tremendously well done first novel. Two couples whose lives will become entwined for better and worse. Charles, whose faith in God is all inclusive and Lily his wife who after the loss of her parents, no longer believes. Jan, a pastors daughter, whose faith is the mainstay of her life, and her husband James, who wants to change things, so becomes a pastor for this purpose. One church, two pastors.

    This is not a subject I'm usually drawn to, liturgical matters and this is a subject that is front and center. It is the struggles of these four very different people that for me was the draw, characters that one finds real and honest. How they change with the very real trials and tribulations of life. Marriage, Parenthood, community needs, pastoral services, friendship and adjustments. The character I had the hardest time accepting, Lily, would prove to be the strongest and by books end one I greatly admired.

    Their are moments of joy, moments of sadness. The writing is mature, the subject matter including autism, ones faith, doubt and hopes are all gently explored. In fact that is the feel of this book, a gentleness in the portrayal of flawed individuals who learn through time to make the many adjustments life often asks of us.

    ARC from Simon and Schuster.

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