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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.
~Winner of the 2018 New American Fiction Prize.
A Note From the Publisher
How to Walk on Water is one of the best debuts I’ve read in years. Lovely and haunting, these stories make my pulse beat harder, my breath catch, my heart break. Margaret Atwood said of the short story, “You need the Ancient Mariner element, the Scheherazade element: a sense of urgency. This is the story I must tell; this is the story you must hear.” This book is full of stories that must be told, stories you must hear. Rachel Swearingen is the real deal – a masterful writer, always in control, always holding the reader in the palm of her hand. On the strength of this book, I’ll read everything she writes.
— John McNally, author of The Book of Ralph
"The nine stories in Swearingen’s auspicious debut showcase a gift for well-placed, revealing details.... Each of the intriguing entries builds suspense before a gratifying or lingering payoff. This crafty collection is worth a look.
— Publishers Weekly
"The characters of Rachel Swearingen’s beguiling short story collection sparkle with charisma, living high on testing boundaries ... In the shocking and appealing stories of How to Walk on Water, characters meet every ill-advised “what if?” with oneupmanship, resulting in dangers and delights.”
— Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreward Reviews
How to Walk on Water is one of those rare books I encounter two or three times a year if I’m lucky, books I not only want to read again but know with certainty I will. Rachel Swearingen is a writer of extraordinary range and talent, wholly sui generis. Her sense of humor is fresh and wonderfully off-kilter, and her understanding of the contradictions of the human heart is profound.
—Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and The Virginity of Famous Men
How to Walk on Water is a beautiful and timeless collection full of mystery. At the mercy of happenstance and calamity, these strangely familiar characters find the stark realities of their lives have become surreal. Swearingen's assured voice, styled with lyrical noir, cuts through like a howl heard in the night.
--Melinda Moustakis, author of Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and a 5 Under 35 selection by the National Book Foundation
Buckle up and prepare to be haunted, moved, and to laugh when you’d least expect it. Swearingen’s visionary writing illuminates the dark corners of the human heart. Her complex and troubled characters will take you down the dark roads of the North Woods, or into the cramped confines of a haunted Chicago brownstone. You’re in the hands of a clever and generous writer, whose ability to create whole characters and to deliver smart plot twists never disappoints.
— Eileen Favorite, author of The Heroines