Pub Date 13 Aug 2019
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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.
"Writing with restrained lyricism, Wall's debut—15 years in the making—offers a kind of literary chamber music, combining the viewpoints of a quartet of characters across multiple decades and events. Wall has a very precise sensibility, and there is no escaping the sense of tidy predetermination in the clear, fixed positions of her four figures and their various oppositions, seen through the debates, struggles, rejections, and consolations that arise among them. Finely drawn and paced and written with intense compassion, the novel shifts ground with a late development that will test and push forward each of the four, leading to a conclusion consistent with Wall's grace and control. A moving, eloquent exploration of faith and its response to the refining fire of life's challenges."—KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)
“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. What it has, in short, is that hardest-won of qualities in a novel: genuine goodness. None of the extraordinary humanity in this book feels unearned; it’s as if Wall has stared into the abyss of real life and come out with energy, hope, and a story suffused in light. We say of books that they are unputdownable; this is a book that you have to put down for a spell in order to take in all the generosity it offers; a book in which it is impossible not to wonder what comes next in these four intertwined and gorgeously observed lives.”—MATTHEW THOMAS, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
“When I began reading The Dearly Beloved I braced for piety, worried it might be a book only a believer could appreciate. Instead, I found myself carried along by Cara Wall’s luminous prose, and then by these characters and their stories. I saw myself in their doubts, in their hopes. An expansive narrative that draws in fifty years and two marriages, this is a novel to settle in with, to read slowly. It asks the biggest question: where can each of us find meaning in this life? There is no moralizing here, only empathy. When I arrived at the end I felt absolutely lifted by the spirit of the story.”—MARY BETH KEANE, author of Ask Again, Yes