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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  2,649 ratings  ·  486 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 l
Hardcover, 338 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…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)
Jean Masthay One of my favorites ever. It's written much in quality and spirit of a Marilynn Robinson novel. Each of the four main characters face an individual…moreOne of my favorites ever. It's written much in quality and spirit of a Marilynn Robinson novel. Each of the four main characters face an individual crisis of faith while living life in a Presbyterian Church community in New York City. I didn't want this story to end! (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,649 ratings  ·  486 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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 t
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 bo
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
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.
Laura G (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 frie
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.
Kaytee Cobb
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, library
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
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.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At least three friends told me this was the perfect book for me and boy oh boy were they right.

This was rich and complicated and sweet and I think it just catapulted to the best book I’ve read all year.
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
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.
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
Robert Sheard
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I didn't think a book about faith, the ministry, and domestic tragedy was really going to interest me, but Wall does a terrific job in bringing all of it back to its essential human qualities. What the story really boils down to is love and grief and family, both biological and selected. Quite a good read.
Elizabeth A.G.
True to life struggles of faith and belief, doubt and hope, family and marriage, and life struggles and hardships. This book gets into the minds and hearts of its strong characters.
Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
[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 qui
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Might be the best book I'll read all year...
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
Kari Ann Sweeney
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is a story about love & life, friendship & marriage, faith & doubt. The writing tackles these big topics in a careful, poignant way that implored me to pause and reflect. When I started the book I was brutally aware that the state of my life didn't allow for any pausing or reflecting. So, I ultimately set it aside until last weekend. (Putting books in a time-out has enriched my reading life 10 fold!)
It's a steady, quiet character driven story that made me th
Deborah Stevens
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.

Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I rounded up 4,5 and gave some some as an advance for this debut novel. An excellent book on all the important things in life, friendship, family, relationships, work and even faith. I was skeptical about this book precisely because of religious aspect as I am more and more atheist in my views. I've been raised in a very atheist society that at the same time has strange (and very ridiculous to me) passion for all things ritualistic and magical. Many people would go to church not even on holidays ...more
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some people might describe this book as a quiet story about two couples, but it’s so much more than that. It begins with four broken people, broken in the ways that all of us are broken, by life and by experiences, and tells the story of their lives through lens of faith. I cried, I cheered, and I cringed for these characters as they lived their everyday, uniquely compelling lives. It was a powerful story of love and grief, faith and forgiveness, and I wish I could press this book into everyone’ ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I am not the audience for this book since I’m not interested in Christian fiction and I found the characters incredibly boring. I made it to the 25% point and gave up. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Bonnie Brody
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
The Dearly Beloved is a mostly gentle book, a novel about faith, love, justice and loss. It is the story of two couples, the men both Presbyterian ministers, who share a post in a New York City church over a period of thirty years.

James comes from a dysfunctional family. growing up poor with a drunken father. As he struggles to decide what to do with his life, he decides to be a minister in order to facilitate social justice. He has a vacillating faith in god but he believes that he
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 frie
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really 4.5 stars. I will be thinking about these characters and their stories for a long while.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
#ReadWithJenna: Questions for The Dearly Beloved author, Cara Wall 7 58 Sep 30, 2019 06:55AM  
#ReadWithJenna: Our September book club pick is The Dearly Beloved 2 132 Sep 27, 2019 12:17PM  
#ReadWithJenna: Question of the Week (1) 3 54 Sep 13, 2019 03:36PM  
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
“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.” 1 likes
“Nan had known, as a child, that God did not answer prayers for more candy or new shoes. Those were worldly things, not sacred. God answered prayers about being a better friend, or being able to get a good grade on a test. God gave wisdom and the ability to work hard. God did not change the circumstances of your life, God changed you. ” 1 likes
More quotes…