In our world, faith is not something we talk about much. Family Sunday mornings are more often built around soccer games or brunches than heading to church. Yet questions of faith and belief still resonate. At some point most of us struggle with the big questions: Does God exist? And if so, why do bad things keep happening in the world? What happens when we die?
The Dearly Beloved brings these questions to the forefront in a beautifully imagined story about two Presbyterian ministers and their wives. Charles is the son of a Harvard professor who has absolutely no use for religion, yet Charles feels a powerful call to ministry. Charles’s wife, Lily, faced a terrible loss at an early age and cannot bring herself to believe in God. James, Charles’s closest friend, comes to ministry not through belief in God but through a need to make change in the world. James’s wife Nan is the daughter of a Southern minister who has never questioned her beliefs. The foursome are thrown together in a New York City church and navigate the trials of their lives through the lens of faith, or the lack of it. Their belief ebbs and flows; their friendships are tested; and like all of us, they find a way to soldier on.
Cara Wall has created relatable characters in situations we can all understand. We walk with them, and come to love them, in their struggles. Wall’s writing is thoughtful and honest, with metaphors that sing off the page. This isn’t just a book about faith; at its heart, it’s a story about love. Whether faith is important to you or not, The Dearly Beloved is a gorgeous, moving book, certainly one of the best I’ve read in a very long time.