The latest from Edwidge Danticat, some impressive debut novels, essay collections, and more books perfect for the last weeks of summer.
Originally Appeared on Vanity Fair
Cara Wall’s The Dearly Beloved is a novel about Presbyterian ministers, yet it refrains from quoting the Bible almost entirely. It’s an Oulipo-worthy challenge carried out with aplomb in this debut novel, prompting readers to think about faith as something that lives not in books but in relationships. The Dearly Beloved traces the 1950s beginnings of two sturdy marriages that grow across subtle gradations of faith: Charles, a seminarian who found religion in college, marries Lily, an atheist; James, a seminarian raised in a semi-observant Catholic family, marries Nan, the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister. When James and Charles are appointed to jointly lead a Presbyterian church, the couples are thrust together, and their differing attitudes towards religion and life make the pairing tumultuous. Though the action takes place in 1960s New York City, the conjunction of these four particular searches for solace gives the novel an allegorical bent. Wall’s clean prose and easy ability to move between the thoughts of her protagonists turn what could seem an inquiry into the nature of religion into a visceral look at how it binds people together. —Erin Vanderhoof, Associate Editor, VF.com