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 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.The Dearly Beloved follows 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. It's a poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives.

The Dearly Beloved Details

TitleThe Dearly Beloved
Author
ReleaseAug 13th, 2019
PublisherSimon Schuster
ISBN-139781982104528
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New York, Drama, Christian Fiction, Adult Fiction, Family, Marriage

The Dearly Beloved Review

  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    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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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    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).
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  • Theresa
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Laura G (lauralovestoread)
    January 1, 1970
    “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 𝙱𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍I’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 𝙱𝚎𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚍I’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
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  • Jodie
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Basic B's Guide
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Tish
    January 1, 1970
    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! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
    January 1, 1970
    [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!Visit https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com for more reviews.
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  • Bridgette
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Gretchen
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Deborah Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my. This is the best novel I've read in a while.Its quiet premise seemed promising: the story of two couples whose lives intersect when the minister husbands are called to co-pastor a Manhattan church. It sounded something like Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, which I appreciated. I liked this one even better!There's a slow build as Wall introduces each character, from childhood. Her writing sparkles and the descriptions hit the sweet spot of authentic, granular detail combined with st Oh my. This is the best novel I've read in a while.Its quiet premise seemed promising: the story of two couples whose lives intersect when the minister husbands are called to co-pastor a Manhattan church. It sounded something like Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, which I appreciated. I liked this one even better!There's a slow build as Wall introduces each character, from childhood. Her writing sparkles and the descriptions hit the sweet spot of authentic, granular detail combined with stepping back to provide some overview. For me the narrative picked up pace once the characters got to college, met and married.Without any plot spoilers, suffice it to say that while this is a quiet, character driven novel, THINGS HAPPEN. It is the 1960s so there's that backdrop. In addition, there is suffering in store for each couple. This is perhaps my favorite theme of the novel: the way that youthful faith intersect with suffering, and how each person copes. There are no platitudes here, just gritty real life, and a lot of human failure and transcendence. It is not necessary to be a person of faith to appreciate this book.With big thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Natalie Erwin
    January 1, 1970
    I know I’m the minority for this rating, but this book did not speak to me. I went into it with such high hopes because of the glowing reviews and I had heard from others. I did not feel connected in anyway to the 4 main characters, I thought they were all very flat. I would have not finished this but was too far into to give up. I did not feel the premise of the novel was realistic at all. The marriage between Charles and Lilly seemed forced. I cannot believe that a man called to preach could m I know I’m the minority for this rating, but this book did not speak to me. I went into it with such high hopes because of the glowing reviews and I had heard from others. I did not feel connected in anyway to the 4 main characters, I thought they were all very flat. I would have not finished this but was too far into to give up. I did not feel the premise of the novel was realistic at all. The marriage between Charles and Lilly seemed forced. I cannot believe that a man called to preach could marry an atheist...and then James not fully believing in God but joining the ministry because he felt there was more to life and he wanted to find it? I felt it just floated from year to year without any real substance. Anyway, this book just wasn’t for me, but I am glad others have found joy from it.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    In 1963, Charles and James are hired to jointly minister the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village, New York City which means that their wives, Lily and Nan, are also forced to interact. How will their similarities and differences set the pattern for the next few decades of their lives? Will they be able to work together companionably, or will their unique set of beliefs keep them forever divided?I was utterly fascinated by the serious, realistic, and thoughtful look at friendship, as w In 1963, Charles and James are hired to jointly minister the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village, New York City which means that their wives, Lily and Nan, are also forced to interact. How will their similarities and differences set the pattern for the next few decades of their lives? Will they be able to work together companionably, or will their unique set of beliefs keep them forever divided?I was utterly fascinated by the serious, realistic, and thoughtful look at friendship, as well as the way each character's faith in God ebbed and flowed. As life's gifts and hardships were granted, each character struggled with their beliefs in a unique manner. The story line dealt with several difficult questions, including: Can a marriage be successful when one half of the couple believes in God and the other does not? How do you find joy in one child when your other child struggles? How do you accept what you cannot have? And, how do you preach faith to your congregation when your own faith falters?"No married couple has the same faith. And one faith is not better than the other."I'm stunned to discover this is a debut novel, and I definitely look forward to more from this author.Location: Harvard, King's College in London, Massachusetts (Nantucket) and Greenwich Village, NYCI received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    I liked the idea of this novel exploring how these characters--both individually and collectively--wrestle with faith and doubt in God and each other. Unfortunately, the characters felt more like vessels for viewpoints or plot devices than fully realized people. The second half also seemed to belong to another novel entirely. Edited to add: Faith by Jennifer Haigh is a book with similar themes (but vastly different plot) that I enjoyed much more.
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  • Haley
    January 1, 1970
    Really 4.5 stars. I will be thinking about these characters and their stories for a long while.
  • Jypsy
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not sure what I think about The Dearly Beloved. I'm not religious at all, and I found all the debate about believing or not believing tedious after a while. It's too steeped in faith for my taste. But, the writing is lyrical, beautiful and serene. The premise is unique and intriguing. I was interested to see how two different ministries would work together and if their wives were similar. The story is a complex narrative about love, friendship, family, marriage and the role of faith in a per I'm not sure what I think about The Dearly Beloved. I'm not religious at all, and I found all the debate about believing or not believing tedious after a while. It's too steeped in faith for my taste. But, the writing is lyrical, beautiful and serene. The premise is unique and intriguing. I was interested to see how two different ministries would work together and if their wives were similar. The story is a complex narrative about love, friendship, family, marriage and the role of faith in a person's life. While I liked certain aspects of the story, I didn't care for some of it. It's an issue of personal preference, and if you are more religious, you'll probably love this book. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Casey Cep
    January 1, 1970
    "American literature, like American history, is crowded with ministers and priests, pastors and prophets. These fictional characters of the cloth are as varied as their living counterparts. Some are pious, like Herman Melville’s Father Mapple or Marilynne Robinson’s John Ames; others are crazed, like Flannery O’Connor’s Hazel Motes, or hypocritical, like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Arthur Dimmesdale, or abusive, like James Baldwin’s Gabriel Grimes..."Read more in my review at THE NEW YORK TIMES: https "American literature, like American history, is crowded with ministers and priests, pastors and prophets. These fictional characters of the cloth are as varied as their living counterparts. Some are pious, like Herman Melville’s Father Mapple or Marilynne Robinson’s John Ames; others are crazed, like Flannery O’Connor’s Hazel Motes, or hypocritical, like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Arthur Dimmesdale, or abusive, like James Baldwin’s Gabriel Grimes..."Read more in my review at THE NEW YORK TIMES: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/bo...
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  • Belle
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book about Presbyterian ministers that only mentions Jesus one time in passing. Otherwise the whole story is only God. Never even the Holy Spirit. Because of this the book is incredibly hard to read for me. The Christian faith is the trinity ( from everything I understand about it). If these ministers and their wives struggle, it is no wonder because I don’t think the faith can roll with just that one side of the triangle. There must be some reason the book was written like this and I This is a book about Presbyterian ministers that only mentions Jesus one time in passing. Otherwise the whole story is only God. Never even the Holy Spirit. Because of this the book is incredibly hard to read for me. The Christian faith is the trinity ( from everything I understand about it). If these ministers and their wives struggle, it is no wonder because I don’t think the faith can roll with just that one side of the triangle. There must be some reason the book was written like this and I just can’t discern it. I think maybe it could be a pathway into the Christian faith and also nicely homogenized for those that do not believe. Ultimately I wonder if the book was supposed to be about the marriages and relationships and the church is just the setting. So none of this meant to be critical and only just my questions or observations about this story.
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  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    I've read 30+ pages and am not bored, but I'm not gripped. This is obviously a literary fiction that is heavily character-driven, which isn't my favorite kind of literary fiction. I want a balance of plot and strong characters. Cara Wall is a solid writer, just literary enough; she doesn't go overboard trying to be poetic or sound intelligent. I'm leaving this unrated as I don't feel I have a clear enough sense of the story and also may return to it at a later time.NOTE: I received this as an Ad I've read 30+ pages and am not bored, but I'm not gripped. This is obviously a literary fiction that is heavily character-driven, which isn't my favorite kind of literary fiction. I want a balance of plot and strong characters. Cara Wall is a solid writer, just literary enough; she doesn't go overboard trying to be poetic or sound intelligent. I'm leaving this unrated as I don't feel I have a clear enough sense of the story and also may return to it at a later time.NOTE: I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy from Goodreads in July 2019.
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  • Jessika
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.I am really killing it with my choice of books this year! The Dearly Beloved was a beautiful, insightful, poignant read. I found myself highlighting entire passages of this book because it was so lyrically written. This was one of those books where I found myself stopping to re-read passages because they just took my breath away. It absolutely blows my Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.I am really killing it with my choice of books this year! The Dearly Beloved was a beautiful, insightful, poignant read. I found myself highlighting entire passages of this book because it was so lyrically written. This was one of those books where I found myself stopping to re-read passages because they just took my breath away. It absolutely blows my mind that this was Wall's debut novel. Don't let the Christian theme turn you away--this was a stunning take on different types of faith, including non-faith, that was entirely objective and unbiased. Not only that, but this novel was also a perceptive rendition of the friendship between four almost completely different people. Readers will be able to find characters to relate to, as well as a depth that creates food for thought as the story follows Charles, Lily, Nan, and James throughout the years. Speaking of years, I loved how authentic the '50s and '60s felt while reading, too. Overall, The Dearly Beloved was a gorgeous debut novel not to be missed, and I'm already anticipating what Wall writes next.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Wall's debut novel follows the story of two pastors and their wives - how they meet, how their 'calling' to preach comes about, and how they work together to serve their church community. I liked the premise of two very different men joining together in faith to support their wives and their churchgoers. However, this novel fell really flat for me. It seemed like there were way too many conversations about believing in God and not believing in God. Instead of an interesting dissection of faith a Wall's debut novel follows the story of two pastors and their wives - how they meet, how their 'calling' to preach comes about, and how they work together to serve their church community. I liked the premise of two very different men joining together in faith to support their wives and their churchgoers. However, this novel fell really flat for me. It seemed like there were way too many conversations about believing in God and not believing in God. Instead of an interesting dissection of faith and religion, it felt like the same prose repeated over and over. I also felt like the setting of the novel (1960's New York) could have lent itself to way more action in the plot - the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War are only sort of mentioned in passing. Finally, I feel like the focus of the novel should have been shifted to cover more of the pastors adult years (less on their college years and early adulthood). The relationship and family struggles of these men were the most interesting to me, and just when this was getting explored, the novel ended. I feel like Wall has a gorgeous style of writing, but I wished for a plot with more remarkable events or turns in the story to keep things interesting.
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  • Brooke
    January 1, 1970
    I am loving all of these books coming out set in the 1960s. It's so interesting to compare and contrast themes from a particular era. Two couples - Charles and Lily, James and Nan - find their lives inextricably linked when Charles and James accept the call to co-minister at the Third Presbyterian Church in NYC in 1963. While this book is certainly a thoughtful meditation on faith, it's also a meditation on the challenges to faith, the limits to faith, the salvation that love and friendship can I am loving all of these books coming out set in the 1960s. It's so interesting to compare and contrast themes from a particular era. Two couples - Charles and Lily, James and Nan - find their lives inextricably linked when Charles and James accept the call to co-minister at the Third Presbyterian Church in NYC in 1963. While this book is certainly a thoughtful meditation on faith, it's also a meditation on the challenges to faith, the limits to faith, the salvation that love and friendship can bring, and one's role as keeper of our brothers and sisters in humanity. It's a strong debut novel by Cara Wall that will surely garner wide appeal upon its release in August 2019.
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    I am a bookseller and received an advanced review copy of this book. I was surprised in the best possible way by how deeply this novel moved me. The premise is simple: two couples brought together by chance when the husbands are assigned to share the ministry at a Presbyterian church in Manhattan in the early 1960s. Cara Walls renders these four very different people and their relationships with honesty, insight and compassion over the decades covered in the novel. Shades of Crossing to Safety, I am a bookseller and received an advanced review copy of this book. I was surprised in the best possible way by how deeply this novel moved me. The premise is simple: two couples brought together by chance when the husbands are assigned to share the ministry at a Presbyterian church in Manhattan in the early 1960s. Cara Walls renders these four very different people and their relationships with honesty, insight and compassion over the decades covered in the novel. Shades of Crossing to Safety, with God as the complicating fifth wheel.
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  • Maureen
    January 1, 1970
    There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this book in the publishing world so I was excited to get get my hands on an ARC and see what all the fuss was about. It was good. Quiet in its story telling often with turns of phrase that stopped me in my tracks. But I did want more; not sure what more I wanted but something. The writing is good enough for me to give it 4 stars, but it just needed a little something to push it over the hump to the 5th star. Recommend.
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  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book, in the most sincere, hug it to your chest, type of way. This is what Anne Bogel would call a quiet novel, and I wouldn't expect a story in which God is the fifth main character to captivate me, but it did. The writing is restrained but there are some really poignant paragraphs and the whole book is just beautiful. (I received an ARC of this title.)
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  • Bob
    January 1, 1970
    Summary: Two couples, the men holding a joint call to a New York City church in a time of change, two wives utterly unlike, and the bonds forged between them as they lean into suffering and the challenges of faith each approaches differently.The story of Charles and Lily, James and Nan. The story is framed by the death of one of them, and the closely woven friendships forged between four very different people, two of whom were intensely at odds with each other--the fabric of which was rent by th Summary: Two couples, the men holding a joint call to a New York City church in a time of change, two wives utterly unlike, and the bonds forged between them as they lean into suffering and the challenges of faith each approaches differently.The story of Charles and Lily, James and Nan. The story is framed by the death of one of them, and the closely woven friendships forged between four very different people, two of whom were intensely at odds with each other--the fabric of which was rent by this death.Charles is the son of old blood New Englanders, whose father was a Harvard professor. Charles comes to faith when posed with the question of what faith meant to the medieval people he was studying, discovering that faith in God could be as real for him as for them, and in this realization, he hears a call to ministry.Lily, bereft of parents in childhood, has lost all faith in God, and hopes to immerse herself in her books and her scholarship at Radcliffe--until she meets Charles, who loves and believes in her, even though she cannot believe in his God.Nan, a ministers daughter, has grown up believing and modeling her life after her father's ministry and her mother's role as a minister's wife. She goes to the bastion of Christian belief at Wheaton College to study music ministry. She has been raised to see need and help.James grows up with an alcoholic father, one wounded psychically during World War Two. An uncle recognizes his potential and sends him to the University of Chicago. At a recital, he meets Nan, who is the accompanist. As he asks her father for her hand in marriage, he shares both his decision to become a minister, and his own struggle to believe. He does not so much believe in God but believes in ministry, in actions of service as God's call for those who would believe.The four end up at Third Presbyterian Church, in Greenwich Village in New York City in the early 1960's. The church is in decline, and believes the gifts of the two men together are what they need to minister in a time of change. There lives are regimented by Jane Atlas, their secretary, and under her tutelage, learn the character of their congregation and forge a working partnership, one in which each will fight for the faith and place of the other in the church at some point.Meanwhile, Lily and Nan come to detest each other. Lily wants no more to do with the church than to support Charles. Nan wants them to get along, wants to help out, wants to care and is rebuffed. It becomes more difficult when Lily has twins, and Nan has miscarriages. And when Nan attempts to help when Lily's one son is diagnosed as autistic, her sympathy repulses Lily who in turn rebuffs her efforts, even as she and Charles struggle with despair of finding help for their son's condition, for which at that time their was little to be done but institutionalize such children.The rest of the story is how these four people struggle against their own feelings, their pasts, their pain to forge deep relationships on the other side of misunderstandings, resentment, and deep despair. The story is one that moves beyond pieties to the gritty struggles involved in believing in a world of loss, of pain, and conflict. To mention the death with which the book opens is not a spoiler--the real story is whether and how theses four will find and navigate life together, coming from such different places.This is Cara Wall's debut novel. She creates four central characters, each strong in very different ways. This is neither a cloyingly sweet "religious" novel, nor one that deprecates religious faith as inevitably an exercise of hypocrisy. It explores the struggles of faith, the combination of noble aspirations, and the hidden selves that those who have these aspirations bring with them. We also see a community, whether a church session, a tough old secretary, or even the four principle characters, who do not let each other drift away, when it would be easy to do.This work was reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead trilogy. Wall is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where Robinson was part of the faculty. I was reminded of the relationship of Reverend Ames and Reverend Boughton in Robinson's works, and their own wrestlings with calling, struggles of faith, and loss. At the same time, whereas Robinson's distinctive Calvinism runs through her works, Wall's theological world is much more mainline Christian, focused around God rather than Christ, and much less concerned with the content than the experience of belief and doubt. What stands out in Wall is her respect for her characters, allowing them to develop, not through theological arguments or marked religious experiences, but as each learns to respect, and sometimes forgive, the uniqueness of the other, often finding something shifting, not in the other but in themselves. This is insightful writing, and I look forward to seeing what else this writer will bring us.________________________________Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars for The Dearly Beloved.I was equally awed and baffled by Cara Wall's debut novel, The Dearly Beloved. Strongly character driven with weak relationships, this book is memorable, yet remains a frustrating read for me.First, know that I filled pages of my journal with powerful quotes lifted from the pages of The Dearly Beloved and this is where its strength lies. Wall bleeds her faith onto the book’s pages without being preachy, the book laden with compassion and understanding for those w 3.5 Stars for The Dearly Beloved.I was equally awed and baffled by Cara Wall's debut novel, The Dearly Beloved. Strongly character driven with weak relationships, this book is memorable, yet remains a frustrating read for me.First, know that I filled pages of my journal with powerful quotes lifted from the pages of The Dearly Beloved and this is where its strength lies. Wall bleeds her faith onto the book’s pages without being preachy, the book laden with compassion and understanding for those who do-and don’t-believe.I loved the four main characters, Charles, Lily, James, and Nan. Wall portrays them beautifully from their teenage years until their 30s, demonstrating intense character development amidst the shadows of WW2, the emerging Civil Rights movement, and the onset of the Vietnam War. Readers come to know these characters, their faith, or lack of it, in God, and their motivations in troubled times, both personal and societal. As a reader there was something in each of them I could connect with, even in the moments I disliked them.It was in the relationships that The Dearly Beloved disappointed me. From the onset, I struggled to understand why Charles loved Lily. Even before he got to know the stoic, caustic young woman whose life was shattered by the death of her parents, Charles determined that Lily was his chosen one. I longed to understand why she married him as I never felt more than a sliver of affection from her, rather a settling due to his persistence. She put forth her atheism as a challenge to Charles, a man who had pledged his life to ministering to God's people. On the other hand, James and Nan made more sense and truly complemented each other in their partnership, leading each other in times of need and making each other better. The Dearly Beloved does succeed in portraying the relationship between Charles and James, two very different ministers of God. The prologue begins with the death of one in the first sentence and the impact of that is felt immediately and every page supports that grief. These two, in my mind, were the love match of this book.The story begins in the mid-1950s and follows the characters to New York City in the 1960s. While necessary for the character development, too much of The Dearly Beloved focused on their college years, leaving the most important parts of James' and Charles's ministry rushed in its telling. The last third of the book refocuses the story inward to family life following the birth of a child with a disability, abandoning many of the storylines and themes that had been built upon. I longed to know how Charles and James eventually impacted their parishioners as the world around them imploded with anti-war protests and the fight for equality. Instead we are mostly left to decide for ourselves. Despite my criticisms, I absolutely recommend The Dearly Beloved. There are words that author Cara Wall wrote that have impacted my life and, honestly, you can’t ask for more when reading.I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for honest feedback.
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  • Lee Woodruff
    January 1, 1970
    There are occasions when you pick up a book and fall into a rabbit hole from the beginning. And while the criteria for me might be different than you, it usually starts with exceptional writing, the depth of the characters and, of course, the story. In the end for me the simplicity of the story and the complexity of the interior lives is usually the key. And for those who share my love of Wallace Stegner, this reminded me of “Crossing To Safety” in numerous ways. It’s a simple story looking at c There are occasions when you pick up a book and fall into a rabbit hole from the beginning. And while the criteria for me might be different than you, it usually starts with exceptional writing, the depth of the characters and, of course, the story. In the end for me the simplicity of the story and the complexity of the interior lives is usually the key. And for those who share my love of Wallace Stegner, this reminded me of “Crossing To Safety” in numerous ways. It’s a simple story looking at complex things, love, marriage, faith, loss, perseverance and so much more. I was sad when it ended. Essentially it is this—two couples, each married to someone of strong faith, each married to ministers, coming of age in the 50s and 60s and wrestling with the vissicitudes of the era, civil rights, the war in Vietnam. Theirs is a twinned friendship with complications. And the two ministers share the duties at a church in New York city. It’s almost impossible for me to encapsulate this book and to say that its about people wrestling with their belief in God would probably turn many readers away from a book that is so much more and asks the questions we encounter in every day life about friendship, truth and belief. I highly recommend.
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    The Dearly Beloved is a beautifully written historical fiction book. This book is more of a character driven book to me - it involves 2 couples from College age through about 30 years. The two men are ministers of a Presbyterian church while one of the women doesn't believe in God and the other woman was raised in a Christian home. The book revolves around their faith, family, friends, and jealousy between the women. When I read historical fiction I always look to learn something and with this o The Dearly Beloved is a beautifully written historical fiction book. This book is more of a character driven book to me - it involves 2 couples from College age through about 30 years. The two men are ministers of a Presbyterian church while one of the women doesn't believe in God and the other woman was raised in a Christian home. The book revolves around their faith, family, friends, and jealousy between the women. When I read historical fiction I always look to learn something and with this one what I found so interesting was LIly and Charles' struggles with Will who suffered from autism. Today we have so much information at our fingertips yet during the time that Will was diagnosed - little was known about it. I loved their determination to help Will and I loved Annaleese who helped them so much with helping Will and how he needed things to be structured in his life. I just found it thought provoking and insightful.. I think this is a 4 star read for me. I think that Cara Wall is a very talented writer and I will look forward to reading something else she writes.
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