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The Dearly Beloved

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The Dearly Beloved

August 2019

In THE DEARLY BELOVED, Cara Wall has written a beautiful, heartfelt novel about two young ministers who become co-ministers at a Presbyterian church in New York City in the early ’60s, their wives --- and their lives. As the book opens, each of the couples are just meeting while they are in college. You feel their innocence, their fresh view of the world, and their unbridled excitement about the lives that are laid out before them. Each brings a very different perspective to their marriages --- and to the way they will serve the faith.

Charles is on a path to become an esteemed professor until he stumbles onto a lecture that changes his course to ministry. As fervent as he is about his faith is how far from it his wife, Lily, is. She is passionate about her atheism, and while she loves Charles, she loves her career just as much; in fact, sometimes it feels like she loves it more. She is ardent and strident, while he is full of compassion and love. It is clear that losing her parents has cast a big shadow on her.

James grew up in Chicago, in a home that was less than happy. His wife, Nan, has lived a privileged life in Mississippi where I am sure that no one planned or dreamed of her moving to New York. She is drawn to James, though their lives are very different. Perhaps she sees strains of her own minister father in him.

So now place these four people together in a parish in Greenwich Village at Third Presbyterian on the corner of Twelfth and Fifth Avenue in the early ’60s, and the story gets more textured as their worlds collide. How will they co-serve the congregation? How will their wives serve as well? And the huge question I had: Which of the couples will live in the parsonage? Beyond the church, how will they serve each other? Each marriage will have its cracks, and those fractures will play out and wind the story in so many deep and interesting directions.

I typically shy away from books about religion or faith. Perhaps I blame 16 years of Catholic school, but this look is so fresh that I found myself completely caught up in it. Faith touches everyone’s lives, from those who believe (on many different levels) to those who are lapsed or agnostic. Even the latter have a commentary about faith.

For those who enjoyed ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane, I recommend THE DEARLY BELOVED. If you are in a book group, it would make for a great discussion. It’s a book that I will think about for a while.

The Dearly Beloved
by Cara Wall

  • Publication Date: August 13, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 198210452X
  • ISBN-13: 9781982104528