Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Dearly Beloved” as Want to Read:
The Dearly Beloved
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Dearly Beloved

by
4.10  ·  Rating details ·  16,142 ratings  ·  2,270 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
...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Dearly Beloved, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Charlie This book is wonderful. As a Christian, I have and have had doubts and so do these people. They are tested and the book explores how they and we handl…moreThis book is wonderful. As a Christian, I have and have had doubts and so do these people. They are tested and the book explores how they and we handle these tests—do we become angry? Do we just accept that “it’s God’s will”?
If you Club is open to seeing Christians struggle and question, this book is great. If your club only wants sunshine and roses and the happy times in life, maybe not.
This book was so real and authentic to me! I am buying a copy for my minister. (less)
Rosanna Yes, I felt this too. Like you say, it didn't take away from the beauty of the book, but it also wasn't fully necessary. The scene of Lily baking cook…moreYes, I felt this too. Like you say, it didn't take away from the beauty of the book, but it also wasn't fully necessary. The scene of Lily baking cookies like a domestic goddess also jarred a bit for me.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,142 ratings  ·  2,270 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Dearly Beloved
Diane S ☔
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019
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
...more
Liz
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This novel tackles several questions that engage me. What possesses someone to be called to the ministry? Can a couple with opposite beliefs find happiness?

We meet Charles and Lily, James and Nan, two ministers and their wives. We are provided their backgrounds so that we get a true sense of what has molded them into the people they are. They’re not at all similar, which makes it even more interesting as they work to find ways to work together. It’s a book about relationships- between spouses,
...more
Larry H
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This one sneaks up on you with its gorgeous, contemplative story which grabs hold of your mind and your heart. Wow, how I loved this!

"Love is the enjoyment of something. The feeling of wanting something deeply, of wanting nothing more. Our love of God is not as important as our faith in God. Love wanes. Faith cannot. One can have faith and anger, faith and hate. One can believe deeply and still rail against God, still blame God. In fact, if one can hate God it is a sign of deep faith because you
...more
Meredith
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
"He...loved them not with the automatic love of childhood or the easy love of coincidence, but with the tautly stitched love of people who have faced uncertainty together..."

3.75 stars

The Dearly Beloved is a character study about friendship, family, and faith.

Charles and Lily. James and Nan. 2 couples brought together through the ministry of the Third Presbyterian Church in NYC in the 1960s. Their journey to the church, and with one another, has its ups and downs, but in the end, they are united
...more
JanB
4.5 stars

Beginning in the 1960s, one of my favorite time periods, this is a story somewhat reminiscent of Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. We follow two couples for many decades: Charles and James who co-pastor a church, and their wives, Lily and Nan.

Charles is the deep thinker, the pastor whose strength is counseling parishioners who are struggling with difficulties. James is the activist who believes his job is to stir the parishioners into action to right the world’s injustices.

Lily i
...more
Jen
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Do you believe in God? And if so, how do you envision him? Has your faith been tested?

2 ministers and their wives lives become intertwined when they both get a position ministering in the same church in NYC. We learn of individual challenges they each have had and where faith fits in or doesn’t. Their lives take a dramatic turn when a child is born very different from his twin.

This one hit home - hard. My parents were very hardcore believers. They adopted my younger brother at 6 months to comple
...more
Marialyce
4.5 stars

“Because only in the quality of your struggle with one another will you learn anything about yourself.”

There are some books that make you think for a moment or two and then those thoughts run off forgotten as they become just another book read. There are some books, however, that keep you thinking and wondering for days, weeks, or even months after you have finished reading them. Such was this story.

This is a story of four people, three of which are people of faith, while one is a non
...more
Natalie Erwin
Sep 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kaytee Cobb
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, fiction
The way people described this as beautiful and character driven, I was almost sure it wouldn't be for me. That I would find it a slog, and be bored. But instead, I find myself bereft at it being over. I'd describe this as glimpses of love and life and friendship and God. The writing is amazing and I took photos of multiple passages. The people are real and flawed and phenomenal. So, instead of an unpopular opinion, like I thought I would have, I'm joining my voice with the chorus. James and Nan ...more
Vanessa
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars A great book to kick start my 2020 book challenge. This book was wonderful in that it creeps into your thoughts as you get to know the characters better, it would be easy to dismiss this book due to it’s themes of god and religion but that was the power of this book, the different perspectives and the humanity of the characters making for a real and thought provoking read. The fact that these characters end up being bound together with all their personal differences individually grappl ...more
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
...more
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 ...more
Connie G
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Four very different people are brought together in 1963 when Charles and James are hired to be co-pastors at a Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village. Charles comes from an upper class, intellectual background, and is a good listener to his parishioners' concerns. James, the son of an alcoholic father damaged by the war, is a fiery man who wants to change the world. The two men complement each other in their work, and become good friends.

Their wives are very different. Charles' wife, Lily, is
...more
Erin
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Cindy Burnett
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
THE DEARLY BELOVED is a stunningly beautiful book – incredibly thought-provoking and lyrically written. As I read it, I frequently marveled at Wall’s prose and marked numerous passages to go back to in the future. Through her four vastly different main characters, Wall delves into what it means to be human: making connections, helping others, exploring faith, and maintaining relationships. And she sets the main portions of this saga against the backdrop of Greenwich Village in the 1960s and 1970 ...more
Kathryn in FL
I am an outlier here, I was frustrated with the rationale of some of the characters. I can see why so many really enjoyed the story so best to ignore my idiosyncrasies.
Abandoned at page 112.
Lisa
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm rarely drawn to novels about faith and religion but this one is different. The Dearly Beloved is a nuanced and fascinating character study - an engrossing, graceful novel about the inner struggles and differences of 4 characters as they try to make a life and create families. James and Charles are both Presbyterian ministers so God is involved. The time period is the 1960s, and it is more than a backdrop - their lives are strongly affected by the struggles in the world outside of them.
Barbara
I listened to the Audible production of “Dearly Beloved” narrated by Kathy Keane. I enjoyed every second listening to this story. Keane’s range of character voices adds to the story, which is important since there are four main characters, each with their own personalities and thereby voice inflections. The narrator makes all the difference in audio productions.

“Dearly Beloved” is a story of love, marriage, friendship, and connections. Author Cara Wall begins her story introducing the main chara
...more
Laura • lauralovestoread
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, 2019, simon-schuster

“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
...more
Angie
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Tish
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Angela
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall I enjoyed this well enough. There was some good material here, and some interesting discussions of characters wrestling with their faith. I'm not a believer, so I appreciated the way unbelief was explored as a worthy viewpoint.
I think the story could have been fleshed out a lot more. And I mean A LOT. Two young couples are
having babies, and then the next page is the epilogue, where they're old people and one of them has died.
The author's writing style is enjoyable to read, and she dev
...more
Laura Tremaine
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The first 3/4s of this book was extra strong, and then I felt like it just wrapped up really quickly when I could have read another hundred pages about these families. So the end left me a little wanting, but still five stars because I ended reading it so much. I can’t remember the last time I highlighted so many passages in a novel.
Meera
I went in thinking I would like this and I ended up mostly loving it. I am not religious, agnostic at best, and I was surprised by how much I liked this book. It was well written and I thought all of the characters were complex, with their own unique imperfections and I felt fully invested in their struggles and triumphs. There were times when I liked one character more than the other but that also changed throughout the book. By the end of the book, I liked them all. I found this book to be ver ...more
Basic B's Guide
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jennifer
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I had high expectations for Dearly Beloved based on the many positive rankings and reviews. Unfortunately, my expectations were dashed as I felt it was unexceptional and uninspiring. The first third of the book was my favorite part as the writing was eloquent, character driven and the narrative was interesting. I was pleased. Then, it changed and felt flat and mostly melancholic. All four of the main characters struggled inwardly, consuming the story by mostly the author telling, not showing. Th ...more
Carol (Reading Ladies)
Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout C ...more
Colleen
The Dearly Beloved is the story of Charles, Lily, James and Nan, and how their lives intersect forever when the two men are hired to jointly steward the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village in 1963.

From childhood Charles is expected to become a history professor, like his father, but a lecture about faith causes him to change course and he decides to serve God. Lily, a fiercely independent and intelligent young woman whom he meets at Harvard, lost both her parents in a car accident wh
...more
Jeanette (Again)
3.5 stars

Cara Wall went to great lengths to lovingly create the four primary characters. I loved that first portion of the book where we learn about their early life, what made them the way they are, and how the two men came to decide to go into ministry. As they take up their ministerial duties, we then see their idealism meet with the reality of what it means to serve parishioners on a daily basis. They wrestle with their faith while navigating the shoals of newlywed disappointments.

The cente
...more
Amber
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Meet James, Nan, Charles, and Lily. These four end up meeting each other when James and Charles end up taking the job to become joint ministers at the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village in New York City. Even though both Charles and Nan marry the complete opposite of each other, their faith in love and God is tested through many trials and tribulations. Can their faith
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Most important, influential character 1 7 Jul 05, 2020 01:01PM  
Jane and Marcus 1 13 May 02, 2020 06:28PM  
Play Book Tag: The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall -- 4.5 stars 1 16 Feb 18, 2020 06:47AM  
#ReadWithJenna: Questions for The Dearly Beloved author, Cara Wall 7 143 Sep 30, 2019 06:55AM  
#ReadWithJenna: Our September book club pick is The Dearly Beloved 2 184 Sep 27, 2019 12:17PM  
#ReadWithJenna: Question of the Week (1) 3 65 Sep 13, 2019 03:36PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Dear Edward
  • Nothing to See Here
  • All Adults Here
  • The Dutch House
  • Writers & Lovers
  • Valentine
  • Friends and Strangers
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over
  • Such a Fun Age
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee
  • This Tender Land
  • The Vanishing Half
  • A Good Neighborhood
  • The Giver of Stars
  • Long Bright River
  • Ask Again, Yes
  • Big Summer
See similar books…
324 followers
Cara Wall is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Stanford University. While at Iowa, Wall 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 ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We’ve got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
36 likes · 54 comments
“Because only in the quality of your struggle with one another will you learn anything about yourself.” 12 likes
“What a privilege, Nan thought, to believe oneself completely independent, to feel unshackled by social conventions and the worry of what other people might think. What a blessing, to be lonely in that particular way.” 6 likes
More quotes…