The Dearly Beloved

A Novel

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About The Book

“Writing with restrained lyricism, Wall's debut offers a kind of literary chamber music, combining the viewpoints of a quartet of characters across multiple decades and events. Finely drawn and paced and written with intense compassion…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.” —MATTHEW THOMAS, 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. 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

“I am not a Christian—not a religious person in any way—yet the explorations of faith in The Dearly Beloved speak to me on levels of extraordinary emotional depth, and with gut-wrenching meaning. I will cherish this book for a long, long time.” —THISBE NISSEN, author of The Good People of New York

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.

About The Author

Cara Wall is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Stanford University. While at Iowa, Cara 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 lives in New York City with her family and The Dearly Beloved is her first novel.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 2019)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982104542

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Raves and Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE DEARLY BELOVED BY CARA WALL

"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

“Oh, how I wish Laurie Colwin were here to read this book! I think she would have loved it, as I love it—it almost feels like a kind of homage to the New York she wrote about with such compassionate devotion. Cara Wall brings that gigantic, beloved city to such vivid life here—as the vibrant and knotty small town New York can become for those making their lives in it, day to day. I am not a Christian—not a religious person in any way—yet the explorations of faith in The Dearly Beloved speak to me on levels of extraordinary emotional depth, and with gut-wrenching meaning. These characters struggle with faith in a world from which God so often seems absent, but their trials are so real, their yearnings so palpable, that every one strikes me with truly profound resonance. I relished the world of this book and its characters: people trying to figure out how to get along as people, struggling to be good in a world where being a person—let alone a good one!—is the task of our lives. But they’re trying, as best they can. And failing. And trying again. Cara Wall lets us travel these very human characters’ paths alongside them, lets us see how they make their ways, and helps us figure out how to make our own. I will cherish this book for a long, long time.”

THISBE NISSEN, author of The Good People of New York

“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

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