Cara Wall’s debut novel The Dearly Beloved is the story of two couples, fresh out of college and newly married. The men have been assigned to jointly serve the congregation of Third Presbyterian Church in 1960s New York City.
Charles and Lily fell head-over-hills for each other in a library. Their wit and intellect make them a perfect match except that Lily doesn’t believe in the God that Charles has committed to giving his life to serve as a church minister.
James and Nan also meet in college when Nan, daughter of a minister and a music major, is the accompanist at a recital. James, struggling for the Cs he earns in class, is trying to figure out a career that will suit his wife-to-be and her family while meeting his own needs to feel useful and ease the world’s suffering.
What results is a story about pursuing a person in spite of their calling. And about pursuing a calling in spite of a lack of faith.
The Dearly Beloved reads much more like an old soul than a debut. Wall’s wisdom suggests experience beyond her years and leads readers through an exploration of marriage, faith, friendship, grief, loss and suffering. She tackles barrenness and autism; justice, race and feminism. Her writing is frank and honest, but with much grace and tenderness.
In this debut, Wall’s writing has been compared to that of Ann Patchett. I would add to that Wallace Stegner and Graham Green as I was constantly reminded of Stegner’s study of relationships in Crossing to Safety as well as Green’s examination of faith in The End of the Affair.
With The Dearly Beloved, Wall exerts herself as a new, yet mature, voice of literary fiction.
I was provided an advanced reader copy of The Dearly Beloved by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To learn more, go to netgalley.com. The Dearly Beloved will be available on Aug. 13, 2019.
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