I was completely undone by this quiet story of two pastors and their families in 1960s NYC. Expecting a small story, instead I found a profound, empathetic portrait of good people, their joys and sorrows, that is monumental in its humanity. Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in Greenwich Village in 1963 when Charles and James are jointly hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences however, threaten to tear them apart.
Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor of history at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then, can he fall in love with Lily — fiercely intellectual, elegantly stern — after she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not?
James, the youngest son in a hardscrabble Chicago family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father and avoiding his anxious mother. Nan grew up in Mississippi, the devout and beloved daughter of a minister and a debutante. James's escape from his desperate circumstances leads him to Nan and, despite his skepticism of hope in all its forms, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life.
In The Dearly Beloved, we follow these two couples through decades of love and friendship, jealousy and understanding, forgiveness and commitment. Against the backdrop of turbulent changes facing the city and the church's congregation, these four forge improbable paths through their evolving relationships, each struggling with uncertainty, heartbreak, and joy. A poignant meditation on faith and reason, marriage and children, and the ways we find meaning in our lives, Cara Wall's The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, wise, and provocative novel that is destined to become a classic.
"Underlying the very readable, honestly human propulsion of her characters' lives in their near-entirety, Wall does a tricky thing quite well, exploring the facts of faith and love at both their most exalting and most trying." Booklist
"A rare and intellectually stimulating outing...By creating such well-defined characters, [Wall] 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." Publishers Weekly
"This wonderful book has all the things that are hardest to find in literature: good marriages sustained by abiding love; nourishing friendships that endure trials; nuanced explorations of religious faith; and characters who strive to do good for others while battling their own demons." Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves
"Writing with restrained lyricism, Wall's debut offers a kind of literary chamber music, combining the viewpoints of a quartet of characters across multiple decades and events. Finely drawn and paced and written with intense compassion...A moving, eloquent exploration of faith and its response to the refining fire of life's challenges." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
About the Author
Cara Wall is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and Stanford University. While at Iowa, Cara taught fiction writing in the undergraduate creative writing department as well as at the Iowa Young Writer's Studio in her capacity of founder and inaugural director. She went on to teach middle school English and history and has been published by Glamour, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in New York City with her family and The Dearly Beloved is her first novel.