"The Man Who Walked on Water is a gentle, curious, attentive, and intelligent book. Jacob Beaver sees Southern Appalachia through fresh eyes, and he's got a wonderfully straightforward approach to the old problem of being a hurt person in a beautiful world. I loved it."
— James Whorton Jr, author of Frankland and Approximately Heaven
"Beaver writes well with very vivid descriptions of people, places, and states of mind. Unexpected, strangely satisfying, and great fun!"
— Lisa Alther, author of About Women and Kinflicks
When a newspaper in East Tennessee reports that a man has walked on water, a cynical English journalist sees a chance to boost his career. He plans to make a film about religious belief in the Appalachian Mountains, centered on the backwoods pastor who performed the "miracle." The journalist persuades his depressive brother to accompany the film crew to America, and it is this brother who tells the story. Ten years have passed. Now living happily in North Carolina, he recounts how the trip turned his life upside down, leading him to see the hand of God in the most unexpected place.
Opening of the book
You have probably heard of my brother, Stephen Mallory, the daredevil English reporter who parachutes into war zones armed only with a video camera. He is famous now, which is what he always wanted. One day Hollywood will make a movie about him. That's where he lives—Hollywood, or somewhere nearby. I've never been to his house, although I live in America too. But I live in a different America, far away in the mountains of North Carolina. I'm happy here. I feel blessed every day, and for that I thank God. Also, strangely, I thank Stephen. So, Steve, if you ever read this, please try to regard it as a kind of long thank-you note. You will hate me for it, no doubt, but I am not out to slander you or settle old scores. My aim is to tell the truth about certain events that changed the course of my life. As it says in Galatians, "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
Ten years ago, when nobody had heard of Stephen Mallory, when he was just another freelance journalist running around London, he made a short film called The Man Who Walked on Water. You can google it if you like. I haven't bothered to google it because I was there during the filming—because I am still there, in a sense. And anyway, it's an awful film. My brother is an idiot. I love him because he's my younger brother, but Steve always was loud and crass, stupid about people and the mysteries of other lives. What Steve likes is Big Ideas. Ten years ago, Steve's Big Idea was to fly out to East Tennessee, where a man had reportedly walked on water, and to get this man on film, suspended between heaven and earth, water lapping his toes. Or to expose the man as a fraud. Or both. Whatever happened, the title of the film would sell it, he hoped. The BBC hoped so too. They gave Steve £20,000.
Continue reading here.
Jacob Beaver was born in Kenya and grew up in England. He lived in London for twenty years, working in publishing and as an editor at the Royal College of Art. In 2007 he married in East Tennessee, where he now lives.
His personal essays have appeared in the London Review of Books, British magazines, and elsewhere.
The Man Who Walked on Water is his first book.