"In the partial and broken objects she gathers, Hurd finds the transcendent. Easily braiding observation and reflection, she is a clear-eyed witness to living gracefully with the wrack and ruin of our human burdens. She is a marvelous writer."
—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Writing the Sacred Into the Real
"Each sentence is an exploration. Every small thing opens into a universe seen through Hurd's brave and curious lens. Her hunt for minutia is subtly inspired and above all tangible, worldly, real."
"In this lovely collection of essays, Hurd explores the wrack line and finds strength and fragility in tiny by-the-wind sailors suddenly cast ashore, raw beauty in a moon snail devouring its prey, disintegration and renewal in stone and sand. Belonging to land and sea, the wrack line is evanescent and enduring, broken and seamless. With her insight, in its particulars, we see our own."
"Hurd delivers nineteen pithy and gorgeously written meditations on the places where land and ocean meet. . . . [She] is magnificent at translating the world into words, in witnessing some small incident on a beach . . . and spiraling it out into a sustained series of questions about impermanence."
—Anthony Doerr, Boston Globe
"There's scarcely anyone writing better about the natural world than the much-unheralded Barbara Hurd. In . . . Walking the Wrack Line, Hurd turns her spare prose and lyrical powers of observation to shingle beaches, spider crabs, jellyfish, dead sailors, and such landlocked matters as why Franz Schubert never finished his Symphony in B Minor, known as the Unfinished Symphony."
—Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio
"Hurd writes laconic, vivid, generally brief essays. . . . She promotes the radical practice of paying careful and loving attention."
—The Georgia Review
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. She considers a chunk of sea glass and the possibilities of transformation.
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."
Each chapter starts with close attention to an object—a shell fragment of a pelican egg, or perhaps a jellyfish—but then widens into larger concerns: the persistence of habits, desire, disappointments, the lie of the perfectly preserved, the pleasures of aversions, transformations, and a phenomenon from physics known as the strange attractor.
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