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The Dearly Beloved

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  25,501 ratings  ·  3,389 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
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
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Elease After listening to this audiobook, I feel like I should ask how one defines "Christian" because, seriously, this book was not it for me (see my review…moreAfter listening to this audiobook, I feel like I should ask how one defines "Christian" because, seriously, this book was not it for me (see my review for details). As a Reformed Presbyterian (and raised as a Southern Baptist), I'm 100% confident that my sisters in my local church would not identify with the faith of these characters. The novel mostly considers God as a being, with zero mention of Christ, salvation, or anything else that sets Christianity apart from other monotheistic religions in terms of the characters' internal struggles with faith.
To be fair, your book club would certainly have things to discuss...I have plenty of thoughts following my listen to this one! But the faith that is addressed is barely in the same ballpark of what I'd hope Bible-believing, Gospel-centered churches would call faith.(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Susan Mace Yes I found the character of AnneLise to be too implausibly perfect, the instant romance between her and Marcus too pat and overall a bit cloyingly sw…moreYes I found the character of AnneLise to be too implausibly perfect, the instant romance between her and Marcus too pat and overall a bit cloyingly sweet. That said I did read to the end and would like to have had the story carry us farther along into their mature years.. (less)

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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
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
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,
Meredith (Slowly Catching Up)
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
JanB(on vacation till October)
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
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
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.
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
4+ stars - Well written novel that tackles issues of faith. I really enjoyed getting to know Cara Wall’s flawed characters, their struggles and redemptive qualities. Charles receives that mysterious thing known as ‘a call’ to the ministry. His father is a professor at Harvard. Charles is endowed with intellectual curiosity, perhaps due to his rearing in the world of academia, and he is also skilled with writing and research. But here, is this touch of mystery. This calling.

The atmosphere of Jam
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
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
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
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
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
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
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
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"'We want,' the new search committee wrote, 'a minister with the highest academic credentials, who struggles with the incongruity of faith in the modern world. We want a minister who looks for answers in a dignified way. We are not interested in the trappings of religion, only in the deep, incisive examination of Christian principles and the way we may apply them to our lives.'" -- page 144

Two distinctly different men who have answered 'the calling' to be pastors apply for the above-mentioned po
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
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.
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.
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
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. ...more
Jan 30, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started this I was just reading in small segments so I wasn't really getting into it. When I got the chance to read in larger chunks it sucked me in. I love the way this author writes. I loved getting to know all the characters. Tears leaked from my eyes at the end. ...more
Laura • lauralovestoread
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, arcs, 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
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
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
If, like mine, your Christian faith includes, oh, I dunno, Christ (aka Jesus, Son of God, etc.), then you'll probably find this book mostly depressing, as the being the protagonists ponder in it is labeled solely as "God." In a book that is supposed to show the deepest thoughts and struggles of two couples in their contemplation of their beliefs as they live their lives (beliefs, by the way, which are externally manifested in two of these people being ordained and active Presbyterian ministers ( ...more
Terrie  Robinson
“The Dearly Beloved” by Cara Wall was an emotional journey for me!

I can’t remember a book that was so heart wrenching and brought me to tears so easily than reading about these relationships. My favorite passage is when Charles speaks at Lola’s christening about the three kinds of trials in life:

“...Don’t ever shrink from those last trials. Run to them. Because only in the quality of your struggles with one another will you learn anything about yourself. Sometimes that struggle is nearly impossi
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.
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
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
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
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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

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