Cover Image: How to Walk on Water

How to Walk on Water

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
I was intrigued from beginning to end, and enjoyed the reading experience.  I was interested in the characters, and looked forward to learning where their stories would lead.
Was this review helpful?
This book was ok, but it just wasn’t my taste in writing.......................................................
Was this review helpful?
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.

Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
I sure do have a love/hate relationship with short stories. It always seems that every time I am just getting into one and can’t wait to find out what happens next, it’s finished and on to the next one! Such was the case for many of the stories in this debut collection. ⁣
Each story is truly unique and leaves you pondering long after you have read the final page. The characters were well rounded (even when they weren’t particularly sympathetic) and I find myself still invested in several of them and desiring more of their stories. My favorite story by far was “Notes to a Shadowy Man”, with “Mitz’s Theory of Everything Series” a close second. I can’t wait to read Rachel Swearingen’s next book, especially if it’s another short story collection
Was this review helpful?
This is a really lovely collection of short stories. Swearingen’s stories read as a cross between Jay McInerney and JD Salinger, both of whom I love. For me the standout was the titular How To Walk On Water, which is about a man whose mother survived an attack by a serial killer while he was a child in his crib. Swearingen’s writing is both literary and totally accessible, and I found this collection weird, wonderful and compulsively readable. Like all books of short stories, I connected more with some then others. But regardless Swearingen is a lovely writer who sucks you into her prose. I’d be very interested in reading a full book, maybe a mystery, from her.

Thanks to NetGalley, New American Press and the author for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
How to Walk on Water is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s one of those books that you’re sad to finish because you just want the experience to continue. Characters who are deeply flawed but you find yourself rooting for them.
Was this review helpful?
Haunting, beautifully written short story collection from a writer to watch.  The stories plunge into intense, off-kilter situations. The settings focus on the Midwest; the title story is set in Seattle.  The images are keenly observed and compressed, extending beyond the frame of the page to suggest backstory and foreshadow the future -- the forgotten mirror, the torn postcard, the open can of corn.  My two favorite stories were "Boys on a Veranda" and "Advice for the Haunted," seemingly but vaguely linked in an enticing way.   

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley and New American Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Do I have to stop saying I’m not a fan of short story collections now? This is the third this month I’ve very much enjoyed. These are dark and haunting and very easy to fly through.
Was this review helpful?
A thrillingly enjoyable debut collection of short stories about people who seek out trouble. These stories have the feel of a Hitchcock movie or a film noir - they possess the same urgency and addictive allure, the thrill of following characters as they make bad decisions and sink further from normalcy. In many of these stories the motivator is boredom or frustration at the mundanity of their daily lives, a loose covering for the tumult bubbling within. As one character explains, ‘sometimes a man hides from trouble, and sometimes a man goes looking for it because he can’t resist its pull, because trouble is a release of sorts’. In one story, a couple purchases the apartment of a recently deceased recluse and lives amongst her possessions, drinking her tinned soup and wearing her silk underwear. In another, a petty criminal returns to his mother’s where he attempts to relive the night she was violently raped, whilst he as a baby slept peacefully a room away. In my favourite, a PhD student of grasshoppers and her elderly neighbour form a loose alliance against the partying college girls who live between them, which turns into obsession.
Was this review helpful?
This is a series of short stories = twists on mundane life.  People all going through the motions, whatever they may be, of their lives when someone or something comes along that skews it all.  That person or thing can seem silly or absurd at first blush, which then reveals itself to be a window into something much more. 

As there seems to be more atmosphere than action, reading what is included, and left out, is important.
Was this review helpful?
I was taken by surprise by this relatively short book of short stories. Short stories aren't usually my jam, they're difficult to get right, and I must not have realized that when I requested it from NetGalley. I'm glad I did though. Swearingen creates well-rounded characters in a short space, and each story made me feel things, whether discomfort, empathy, or suspense (I had to stop and resume "Advice for the Haunted" in the daylight).

The first story was my LEAST favorite, but it only got better from there. I generally felt like I was invested in the protagonists by the end of the first page, and at the end of each story I was left wanting more, to know how situations or characters ended up.

Review link to Goodreads:
Was this review helpful?
Very enjoyable collection of short stories,that managed to be quirky and amusing and a little bit dark.
I think the short story is a difficult thing to crack,but this book did a great job,fully rounded characters in a short space of time.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to New American Press and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for fair and honest review. 

How to Walk on Water and Other Stories is a beautifully haunting book. Short stories seem to be either easily forgotten or stay with you forever. This is a collection of stories that will stay with you. They are dark yet hopefully. Sad but lovely. Each a little different, at times I felt tearful and other times I had that feeling like when you watch a scary movie and you are waiting for something to happen. The endings give you room for thought beyond the pages. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read more from the author soon.
Was this review helpful?
This book by Rachel Swearingen is a testimony to how much violence and depth there is in lives of people around us. The book talks about normal people like an au pair, investment bankers, mothers, sons, friends, roommates. The narrative takes you through a section of their lives which represent something which means a lot to them or show the layers in their personalities in a very raw manner. You have to be prepared to face the heartbreak, the crude reality, the suppression when you read through the stories. These stories do not inspire you, they do not give hope for something. They tell reality as it is, and in doing so, the stories become hard to go along with, at times. 

The book starts with story of an investment banker, having a boring life, who meets an unusual girl. He is apprehensive of her ways. Her actions scare him but he still seeks her company. There is a story about an au pair, obsessed with film noir, loses a child she was looking after. In another story, there are roommates whose pranks on each other end badly. A son, who finds out how his mother survived a brutal attack when she was young and how that may have shaped her and his life. Two friends who are so close to each other that there is no place for anyone else. 

Some stories are almost poetic. You enter world of the characters and it takes a while for you to come out and while you are reading the next story, the earlier one plays on your mind.
Was this review helpful?