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The Dearly Beloved

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  8,879 ratings  ·  1,391 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)
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…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)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  8,879 ratings  ·  1,391 reviews

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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
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,
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
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.

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: 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
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.
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 ...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
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
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 ...more
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
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.
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,
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.
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 ...more
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
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.
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.
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
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.

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
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.
Megan C.
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a rule, I don’t like the smooth road – give me a convoluted, back-woods path any day! Similarly, I don’t often enjoy books with easy-to-like, flat, two dimensional characters. I don’t like books that are too afraid to confront the ugly, the raw, the real.

I enjoy when true justice is served, but I don’t like overly simplified, overly neat, overly saccharine endings. Life isn’t like that.

I love authors courageous enough to examine tough ideas, turn plot points and characters over in their hands
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-5-star-reads
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 ...more
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
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 quiet and is
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.

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 ...more
Elizabeth A.G.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I gave up on this one about halfway through and just skimmed to the end. The characters seemed wooden and there was way too much telling, instead of showing. It took many, many chapters before the couples' storylines intersected and I simply lost interest while waiting for it to do so. Even though the overall focus of faith's role in our lives is one I'm usually interested in, I found that focus actually became too prominent and obvious. Given all the stellar reviews, I'm pretty sure this is ...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
“Because only in the quality of your struggle with one another will you learn anything about yourself.” 9 likes
“On the day Charles Barrett died, James MacNally closed the door to his study, sat down in his chair, and laid his head on the thick edge of his desk so he could weep. His wife, Nan, did not knock to be let in, though his rough, heavy sobs hit her like stones. She knew James’s own death would wring the same sounds from her, if he went first and left her adrift in the world, unmoored. Nan knew, full well, that life was a series of bereavements and each stole from her one load-bearing beam, one bone. Nan almost always believed, as her father had, that even deep wounds could be repaired, that God healed all parts of us like skin: no matter how sharp the cut, it would someday knit itself back together and leave only a scar.” 3 likes
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