Cover Image: How to Walk on Water

How to Walk on Water

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Member Reviews

In this short story collection of tales that verge almost into the supernatural, my favorite is about a woman who transforms her apartment into art that's mysterious, macabre, and sometimes just plain weird. Told from the perspective of her boring boyfriend, he makes her seem otherworldly, when she is probably mentally ill or neurodivergent, or maybe merely tired of this world. There's so much going on in these stories. Swearingen is a fantastic short story artist. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this collection from the publisher New American Press through NetGalley.
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I adore this writing style; it is simple and understated. There is a deftness of touch  with the vocab chosen - impressively so given how well crafted the characters are and how much we invest in them
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An absolutely fantastic collection of stories. This is my first time with Rachel Swearingen and WOW I will absolutely continue to read her books. 

They are haunting, disturbingly beautiful, and make you question everything you've just read, and just vivid.
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I really wanted to like this book but unfortunately I could not get into it. I do not think this was the one for me. The premise was super interesting, but towards the end to me it just fell apart.
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A thoughtful, haunting collection. Each piece so noir, so disturbingly beautiful. Deep character development in such short spaces.

Favorites included "Felina", and "Mitz's Theory of Everything Series", curious--with raw, distinct characters; a few dark and emotional, including "Notes to a Shadowy Man", and "How to Walk on Water"--an absolutely wrenching gem.

My only critique is that I wish the prose was more powerful, to match the emotional energy of the stories. But, overall I loved each and every one for a different reason.
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This little set of short stories is a great way to kick of spooky season as they each and collectively are disturbing, weird, creepy, and compulsively readable. I read this far into the night two nights in a row because I kept wanting to know what happened. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this collection. I would definitely read more by this author. 

The characters are haunting (or are they haunted? Or both?) and I think my favorite short story is the one who earned a spot in the title, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. 

I’d pick this one up if short stories are your thing, or even if you’re just curious, and like to simultaneously cringe and excitedly turn the page, craving more. 

Thank you to #netgalley and New American Press for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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In Swearingen’s short stories quite a few of the characters are a bit self-absorbed. This is not to say they are unlikeable, but you know their expectations will not be met or they will make a choice with consequences they may not have expected. These people are seemingly ones you could pass on the street and not realize the internal dilemmas going on. That, and the exquisite writing makes this title a compelling one. 

Favorite stories: Notes to a Shadowy Man where a young nanny’s inner life takes over; Edith Under the Street Life where a  single woman feels her professional and personal life slipping away as she copes with the people in her apartment building, and Advice for the Haunted, where a young couple move into an apartment, which may have been previously owned by a character from an earlier story. 

Recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.
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Many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. The format of this novel is a series of short stories that read in a darker, gothic tone. Each story centers on a different character who has their own problems complete with personal flaws yet I still found myself captivated, anxiously turning the page to find out what's going to happen. I really enjoyed reading this and it is a perfect fall book with its noir undertones.
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Thank you to the author, New American Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is a hard one to review. Beautifully written short stories, a stunning debut - dark, darker, noir and disturbing. The characters in each are people that invite trouble into their lives, and then struggle to deal with the aftermath. Despite the short story format, the author puts wonderfully well-rounded characters on the page, that stay with you long after you've finished reading.
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Book Review: How to Walk On Water and Other Stories
Author: Rachel Swearingen
Publisher: New American Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Review Date: September 7, 2020

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

From the blurb:
“In this spellbinding debut story collection, characters willingly open their doors to trouble. An investment banker falls for a self-made artist who turns the rooms of her apartment into eerie art installations. An au pair imagines her mundane life as film noir, endangering the infant in her care. A son pieces together the brutal attack his mother survived when he was a baby. These stories bristle with menace and charm with intimate revelations. Through nimble prose and considerable powers of observation, Swearingen takes us from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Northern Michigan, to Seattle, Venice, and elsewhere. She explores not only what it means to survive in a world marked by violence and uncertainty, but also how to celebrate what is most alive.”

I find it amazing how different people can respond so differently to a book. I found this book anything but spellbinding. The stories were odd, but also strangely 2-dimensional and boring. To be honest, I could not read all the stories. 

The characters were quite strange, and not fully fleshed out. I felt like I was reading about cardboard cut-outs, and at the end of each story I thought, Huh...what was that about?

So, unfortunately I give this book of stories 1-2 stars and do not recommend you read the book. I particularly do not recommend you buy your book. Don’t waste you money. Get it at the library if you must, if it’s carried. 

It always pains me to leave a negative review like this, and remember, this is my personal taste. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. 

#netgalley #howtowalkonwater #newamericanpress
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How to Walk on Water and Other Stories is a haunting collection of short stories. While some stories resonated more than others, each was crafted with skillful prose, unsettling storylines, and memorable (if not always likable) characters. These are noir stories that have lived in my mind since I've finished reading them. A perfect read for spooky season as the days get shorter and the air gets cooler!


Thank you, NetGalley and New American Press for the review copy!
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𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐝 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐈 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞. 𝐈𝐭 𝐤𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐮𝐩, 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐈 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐝.

The characters Rachel Swearingen has brought to life in these stories often bring trouble on themselves, but they can’t help it. Like Lynette in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘔𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘞𝘢𝘴 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘖𝘧 𝘞𝘰𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴, who coerces her brother into a spot of serious trouble. It’s just like when they were kids, and if it’s an abduction this time, she has a good reason even if she is as ‘crazy as they come’. Harlan has to stand with her through her wild scheme, it’s a loyalty thing.

𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘖𝘯 𝘈 𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘺 𝘔𝘢𝘯 is a warning of what happens when you aren’t paying attention. When you’re playing at mystery and intrigue, things can slip from your control. Vera’s an au pair with her mind is stuck on film noir, so much so that in her foolishness of being funny and secretive she makes a big mistake involving the baby whose safety and well being she is responsible for.

It rent my heart to read 𝘉𝘰𝘺𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘢 𝘝𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘢. A retired psychiatrist with a supervoid where his heart should be watches from the window of his brownstone a younger woman across the way. Filled with grief, it is one small pleasure he allows himself, witnessing her strange eating habit. He has decided his fate, but she will stay with him long after he travels abroad. His grief swallows the reader, his life turned as flavorless as paper and about as appetizing.
𝘔𝘪𝘵𝘻’𝘴 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 is another story that made a captive audience of me. When Mitz vanishes, much of the blame can be laid at Ona’s feet and her self-serving choices. It is a friendship built on looking the other way when she should seek help and allowing rot to seep in. Ona channels her turbulence through art, but what about Mitz and her chaos? Is this friendship, or a collusion of ruin? Will we ever know?

When Nolan’s mother once told his father, “there are worse things”, she is speaking from experience in the title story, 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘛𝘰 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘖𝘯 𝘞𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳. Nolan’s life is going nowhere, when he moves back in with his mother something about his own failings has him lashing out at her. He can’t get his mother’s attack and rape that happened when he was a baby out of his mind, there are far too many questions swirling in the darkness. His father said ‘you always liked to pick scabs’ but is this a scab he should leave be?

Several of the stories weren’t as engaging, but the ones above worked their magic on me. Certainly the things that happen are peculiar, and there is something enchanting about the weirdness of others. Not all short stories can create characters that feel like real people, these did. I think she is an author to follow and I hope she writes a novel because I think she has a firm grip on the fragility of our emotions.

Publication Date: October 1, 2020

New American Press
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I really enjoyed this collection. The stories (and the whole book) were reasonably short and easy to read. The stories weren't too similar. Each one featured a character I believed in, but who surprised me - they were each so different from me in their own ways. Well done to the author for creating such a range of characters and telling their stories in such brevity!
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A stunning debut collection, so well written, imaginative, original.  Each is a noir gem that haunts, and I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite.
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This book was ok, but it just wasn’t my taste in writing.......................................................
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I wanted to like this book. The description promised a gothic sensibility and strangeness that sounded playful and exciting.  And certainly the stories *are* strange...or maybe it's more accurate to say that they are trying to be strange. In general, this collection feels sweaty with effort. The effort to sound writerly, the effort to write about "all kinds" of people (according to a mid-century American idea of which sorts of people are included in that category) and all kinds of places. Ultimately, though, these efforts feel hollow, in part because the writing lacks the authority and personality to convince the reader (this reader, anyway) of any sort of true familiarity or insight into these people, places and events. 

A few examples of what rings false here: 
- a reference to "the suburbs of Ann Arbor" (Ann Arbor is a college town--it doesn't have suburbs),
- countrified dialect in "The Only Thing Missing Was the Howling of Wolves" that sounds like a bad copy of Flannery O'Connor
- the (similarly) temporally displaced "British" dialect of Vera in "Notes to a Shadowy Man"
- A disconnect between the 1950s-ish diction of the stories ("don't take all your meals in the diner," writes a presumably millennial, American daughter to her father; in the same story, references to "picture postcards") and the fact that it is now, well, 2020
- The lack of any particular insight into the characters, other than a sort of reigning ennui

I can tell that Swearingen, whose writing is plenty competent, reveres the work of those MFA standbys, Carver, O'Connor, Munro, etc., but it's a bit bizarre that she has imitated them to the point that these stories are unrecognizable as products of the 21st century. I imagine that Swearingen does have ideas, and a style, of her own to express; I only wish she had dared to express them here.

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I really enjoyed this thoughtful, curious, dark collection of stories. As with most short story collections, some appealed to me aesthetically more than others, but Swearingren's through-line of investigating the dissonance between the way that people perceive themselves and the way they are perceived by others is so interesting. The writing is strong and atmospheric, with an adeptness at investigating the quieter moments of inner life amidst traumatic experiences. 

A beautiful collection.
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3* because even if I feel like I'd rather give 2 only, this is more of a personal issue I have w/ short stories, sad things, and having a hard time to read recently.

This book is a collection of short stories, of daily things and lives of normal people but with some twists. They're sad twists, mostly. There's topics of death, suicide, rape, murder etc., and most of the stories were just really miserable and kinda depressing.

Despite all that, I felt compelled to read through each one of them, because the way Swearingen writes is very captivating and interesting, and each chapter/story just makes you keep thinking about what happened, what you just read, what in the world was going on. The final one, with an actual supernatural theme, was probably my favorite of this collection.
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This collection of short stories is wonderful. It feels like everyday people and everyday stories, but with a focus on certain quirks and twists. I kept wanting to finish a story and get started on the next one. I loved Swearingen's literary writing that somehow also seemed conversational and accessible. I definitely ended up wanting to read more about all the characters in every story, which I think is a sure sign of great writing. 

Each story takes a particular tone and angle that is so different from each other, but as a whole, they all flow and seem to fit together so well. There is a real dose of reality in the books, which tends to be on the serious side, but the writer does such a good job of getting the reader into it that I don't mind.  I would definitely recommend!
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An investment banker falls for a self-made artist who turns the rooms of her apartment into eerie art installations... An au pair imagines her mundane life as film noir, endangering the infant in her care... A son pieces together the brutal attack his mother survived when he was a baby...

This was such an intriguing collection of short stories.. I like that with short stories you just get a peek into a character's world, a peek at their world and motivations before it's over and you are left to imagine what would've happened next. These stories were very noir and unpredictable. I enjoyed reading one or two of the stories at the end of the day. 

Thank you to #NetGalley for my digital ARC! #HowtoWalkonWater comes out October 1st!
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