Cynthia Beach – The Surface of Water [Excerpt]

The Surface of WaterRead an excerpt from this excellent new book,
released just last week!!! 

The Surface of Water: A Novel
Cynthia Beach

Paperback: IVP Formatio, 2024
Buy Now: [ BookShop ] [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ] [ Audible ]

Book Description: 

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.

*** Read an excerpt from this book:

[ Taken from Chaper 1 ]

He was, wasn’t he? 

The question assaulted Trish Card again as she hurried up Calvary’s wide staircase. The megachurch lifted around her like the dome of sky. She hadn’t known. Her nerves tingled. Someone was staring. Her looks. Again. She had stopped reacting whenever a startled gaze snagged her face. One such glance was dragging like a net over her now. She raked her light hair forward. Her hair eclipsed enough. It didn’t matter. 

It did. 

Her head bowed as if her prayers had begun. Had they ever stopped? God had said he loved orphans. Maybe that explained the small, unexplainable flashes of light that sometimes dazed her. Then again, wasn’t that what today, Sunday, was about—and next Friday? How would she wait an entire week for the interview—here? 

She grasped the banister. It was cool and hard and as self-important as ancient granite. She shook her head. How else could she explain it, but the wild holy, the mystery? To be in final consideration to assist the famous Pastor Matthew Goodman. Did it mean she would get the job? Might it mean—what? 

The steps wore a cloak of carpeting that muted footfall. People everywhere. The men in designer suits and haircuts cradled their wool coats. The March wind still clawed. And their skin. All so white, like hers. The wives in tight dresses or pantsuits were, again like her, too thin to have real bodies, no soft curve of hip or buttock. María would chide them, urging on them another tamal. 

One short-haired woman was holding court near the top step. Trish dropped her hand off the banister to circle wide. Too late. The woman inventoried her face before scanning her cheap clothes and shoes. The queen’s gaze tightened; her perfect brows tipped downward with the inevitable surprise. Well, she’d never play their game. 

The staircase transitioned to a second foyer where five sets of French doors directed flow. After a greeter foisted a bulletin into her hand, Trish drifted to the leftmost doorway beyond where the balcony swooped downward; she clutched the railing and moved along the wall onto a peninsula that narrowed into two theater-style seats. The seats hung over the stage, curbed by a wooden rail. A bird’s-eye view. A blackbird’s? 

She sank into the shadows. The press of thousands had nearly sprung her, but she had to see him, and here in the shadows, she could. The seat was comfortable, although the wooden armrests were high. The stage circled below like a half pie, its rounded edge touching the first of three steps to the sanctuary floor. Almost directly beneath her swayed musicians while a drummer sat apart. Crowds of leafy plants hid what needed hiding, and on the far side was a clear podium waiting. Like her. 

Murmurs hummed over plunks of music. Ten thousand gathered week after week. He was that powerful? Strange. His internet sermons hadn’t interested her. Pastor Matthew Goodman seemed to know little about things that mattered. 


Unlike Father Martinez, who stood in the tiny church on Conklin beneath the carved sign of Micah 6:8 . . . and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with— 

“Can I sit here?” The boy startled her. His finger jabbed toward the next seat, his dark eyes bright. 

“For sure!” She lifted her purse. Andrés at eight? She imagined María’s son. The dark lashes, yeah, but this version had food. He glanced up at her once, his feet swinging. Behind him, an older woman nodded. 

Lights lowered as a spotlight cinched the musicians. Her heart thudded while the service clicked through singing, announcements, singing. Trish hunched forward, her elbows digging into her knees. When would he arrive? The musicians lowered their instruments. Now? Her pulse increased. She sat forward, her nails pricking her palms. 

In the wall beyond the podium, a small door opened. A hand blanched beneath the spotlight. A cuff. A sleeve. A shoulder. Matthew Goodman emerged whole. Her breathing paused. His light hair shone. She couldn’t see his face, and she needed to. Trish pressed forward. Her seat was too far away. 

He approached the podium while his face snapped onto the enormous screens. Over the actual man hung his large image: the side-parted hair, the light brows, the cheekbones. His white teeth gleamed. His lashes seemed too dark. Makeup? It was TV. His eye contact was calculated, timed. He was a man who appeared for all the world like a high-priced performer. 


Her breathing started hard. What made him sure about that? The pounding in her ears increased. 

“We have gathered together once more—” 

On the screen, his lips continued to move though she couldn’t hear. The drumming was too loud. She melded to her seat, her arms akimbo, but the chair held her forward, imprisoned. His sharp cheekbones. Her fingers opened and lifted to her face. Weren’t those cheekbones her cheekbones? His light hair, hers? Trish strained against the unused word, but it broke through. 



Taken from The Surface of Water by Cynthia Beach. ©2024 by Cynthia Beach. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com.

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