The Dearly Beloved

The Dearly Beloved is a novel by Cara Wall.

Cara Wall

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. (From Simon & Schuster)

Cara Wall is a New York-based writer. The Dearly Beloved is her first novel.

From the book

On both his mother's and his father's side, Charles Barrett was descended from old Boston families. His father was the head of the Classics Department at Harvard, where he taught seminars on the Romans and Greeks.

"Societies fail," his father told the freshmen year after year, "when men are rewarded for seeking pleasure instead of responsibility." His tweed jackets rasped as he cracked notes on the blackboard; his comments on papers, written in gaunt handwriting in deep blue ink, were direct and critical. At the dinner table, just before pushing back his chair to retire to his study, he often said, "Obligations are the fuel of life, Charles. Reputation is their reward."

Their shingled, sharp-roofed Victorian house was painted grey with brown shutters. Inside it was stern, angular, and choked with books, each chosen deliberately: a collection of translation, biography, and historical analysis his father would one day bequeath to the library—a legacy of edification. Charles's mother hid her romance magazines behind a bucket under the kitchen sink, and Charles fell on the comic books other boys brought to faculty parties, gorging himself as quickly and stealthily as his contemporaries emptied the cocktail glasses the grown-ups left behind. He never took a comic home, because his father did not believe in leisure or in letting one's mind run free, without purpose. If he had seen Charles with so much as a paperback, he would have assigned Charles an essay to write or a problem to solve.

From The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall ©2019. Published by Simon & Schuster.