Barbara Hurd’s graceful essays flow from musings on objects she finds at the beach’s “wrack lines.” As she brings light to often-overlooked and mysterious aspects of the natural world, she grapples with life’s most difficult lessons, such as brokenness, aging and loss. Writing from beaches as far-flung as Morocco, St. Croix, or Alaska, and as familiar as California and Cape Cod, she helps us see beauty in the gruesome feeding process of the moon snail. She holds up an encrusted, still-sealed message bottle to make tangible the emotional divide between mother and daughter. The book began on a beach, Hurd says, “with the realization that a lot of what I care about survives in spite of—perhaps because of—having been broken or lost for a while in backward drift. Picking up egg cases, stones, shells, I kept turning them over—in my hands and in my mind.”


This is the third in a trilogy of acclaimed nonfiction from Barbara Hurd, following STIRRING THE MUD (Beacon Press, 2001; a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001), and ENTERING THE STONE (Houghton Mifflin, 2003; a Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year). Her essays have appeared in Best American Essays, The Yale Review, and Orion. The recipient of a 2002 NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award and Pushcart Prizes in 2004 and 2007, Barbara Hurd teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.