The Surface of Water: A Novel, By Cynthia Beach
The Surface of Water
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: April 09, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: A0753
  • ISBN: 9781514007532

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The only person who can uncover his secret has arrived.

Matthew Goodman is tired, and his one wish is for something he can't have. Instead he focuses on the demands of his work as pastor of Chicagoland's Calvary Community, including bringing a new administrative assistant onboard. New hire twenty-five-year-old Trish Card watches him with somber, lake-clear eyes. What he doesn't know about Trish and her real reason for appearing will dismantle his world.

The Surface of Water is about a megachurch pastor, a famous evangelist's son, living in a world beyond his control. It's also a story about a young woman trying to understand her complicated life. In the #ChurchToo era, this novel invites readers to see life's shadowed edges—isolation, power, and abuse—illumined by the light of truth.

"A timely examination of the human heart, The Surface of Water explores the complexities of frail faith and fractured family, proving that sometimes even the truth can become watery. Readers won't be disappointed as Beach delivers an emotional story through beautifully lyrical language, presenting characters who stick with us long after the last page is turned."

Julie Cantrell, author of Perennials

"Cynthia Beach weaves an intriguing thread of lies, love, and loss in this contemporary, relatable tale. I defy anyone to read the prologue and not be hooked by the premise of this powerful page-turner."

Glenys Nellist, author of the Love Letters from God series and the Snuggle Time series

"The Surface of Water presents a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of Matthew Goodman, pastor of a Chicago megachurch, whose public life is marked by power, adulation, and wealth, while the surface of his inner life is roiled by a troubled relationship with his late father and by a former indiscretion Goodman has kept hidden. With suspense and skill, but also compassion, Beach's novel reveals the damaging consequences when faith is overruled by ego, and desire for justice comes close to revenge. This timely novel deserves a wide reading."

Hugh Cook, author of Heron River and winner of the Leslie K. Tarr Award from the Word Guild, Canada

"Good fiction is made up of a million individual threads woven together into an enormous tapestry. The Surface of Water is such a novel. With complexity, careful skill, and nuance, Beach kept me on my toes as she led me through the telling of Pastor Goodman and Trish Card's story, coaxing me along with compelling narrative and fully realized characters. Beach shares a tale about the beauty and ugliness of relationships, the church, and the lives we choose to live."

Susie Finkbeiner, author of The All-American and The Nature of Small Birds

"The Surface of Water is a complex, richly interwoven story exploring the subtle—and not so subtle—allures of power and wealth, and the spiritual corruption that they encourage. As ministries and pastorates lose their way in this novel, the tensions that Cynthia Beach poses become more and more tangible—and recognizable to the modern church that can too easily embrace the contemporary culture it is called to question."

Gary D. Schmidt, author of the Newbery Honor books Okay for Now and The Wednesday Wars

"Pastor Goodman presents readers with a new archetype for a pastor. The ending is one that I will think about for some time."

Bruce Holland Rogers, Pushcart Prize winner

"Trust Cynthia Beach to weave a good story, create authentic characters, and challenge the reader to greater wisdom and compassion. I hope to see more stories as honest as this one."

Vinita Hampton Wright, author of Simple Acts of Moving Forward for Now and The Art of Spiritual Writing

"The Surface of Water is an unflinchingly honest look at 'big' Christianity. Crafted before the recent spate of #ChurchToo scandals, it now reads as a prophetic harbinger of church abuses. It does for hypocrisy in the church what Demon Copperhead did for the opioid crisis."

Kelly Flanagan, psychologist and author of The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell

"A poignant tale of power and mercy brought to life by characters we all recognize. Cynthia Beach hasn't only created a modern-day parable that should be read because of its subject matter—it stands on its own as a well-told, compelling story. I can't wait to read her next book."

Shawn Smucker, author of The Day the Angels Fell

"I have one complaint about The Surface of Water. Cynthia Beach's novel needs a warning label: Caution: Contents Are Compulsively Addictive. Though I had little time to spare, I could not turn my eyes away from this gaze behind the veil of a megachurch pastor and the affiliated human machinery. But don't think you know what the gaze reveals. Beach surprises at every turn, bringing us a fresh, sweeping, deeply wise exploration of success, fame, and faith."

Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing and Living the Truth of Your Life

"This story is haunting and holy. In an age when storytelling inclines to morality tales, Cynthia Beach has created a world of monstrous saints and saintly monsters. In other words, this is a story about human beings. The Surface of Water prods and provokes. It stares into a Christian subculture deconstructing in the face of scandal without collapsing into denial or despair. What will happen when Pastor Goodman finally gets his swim? Read and consider for yourself."

Jason Gaboury, director of alumni relations with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and author of Wait with Me

"Trish, a young woman with a difficult past, arrives on the scene harboring secrets. Matthew Goodman, a celebrity pastor, has secrets of his own, and the two lives are connected in surprising ways. A richly woven tale, The Surface of Water will have you spellbound. Cynthia Beach has written well-developed characters and skillfully creates tension, exploring themes of desire, wealth, power, discrimination, and the culture of Western megachurch institutions. This is a well-crafted story brimming with honesty and profound truths about human nature."

Prasanta Verma, author of Beyond Ethnic Loneliness

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Cynthia Beach

Cynthia Beach is a professor of creative writing at Cornerstone University and author of Creative Juices for Writers. She has an MA in journalism from Wheaton College and an MFA in fiction writing from the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts. She is also a trained spiritual director. Cynthia directs a faith-based writing workshop, Scriptoria, with Gary D. Schmidt. She lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan, on a quiet seven acres with her husband, Dave.