The Outer Beach by Robert Finch
A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod

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This makes for a good deal of repetition...when he uncorked 25 pages on the Cape’s clay cliff formations, I nearly flung the book across the room. I’m glad I didn’t. In the end, Finch artfully conveys what is, at heart, so stirring about the beach: how its beauty and magisterial power cause us to ponder the larger things in life...
-NY Times

Synopsis

A poignant, candid chronicle of a beloved nature writer’s fifty-year relationship with an iconic American landscape.


Those who have encountered Cape Cod—or merely dipped into an account of its rich history—know that it is a singular place. Robert Finch writes of its beaches: “No other place I know sears the heart with such a constant juxtaposition of pleasure and pain, of beauty being born and destroyed in the same moment.” And nowhere within its borders is this truth more vivid and dramatic than along the forty miles of Atlantic coast—what Finch has always known as the Outer Beach. The essays here represent nearly fifty years and a cumulative thousand miles of walking along the storied edge of the Cape’s legendary arm.


Finch considers evidence of nature’s fury: shipwrecks, beached whales, towering natural edifices, ferocious seaside blizzards. And he ponders everyday human interactions conducted in its environment with equal curiosity, wit, and insight: taking a weeks-old puppy for his first beach walk; engaging in a nocturnal dance with one of the Cape’s fabled lighthouses; stumbling, unexpectedly, upon nude sunbathers; or even encountering out-of-towners hoping an Uber will fetch them from the other side of a remote dune field.


Throughout these essays, Finch pays tribute to the Outer Beach’s impressive literary legacy, meditates on its often-tragic history, and explores the strange, mutable nature of time near the ocean. But lurking behind every experience and observation—both pivotal and quotidian—is the essential question that the beach beckons every one of its pilgrims to confront: How do we accept our brief existence here, caught between overwhelming beauty and merciless indifference?


Finch’s affable voice, attentive eye, and stirring prose will be cherished by the Cape’s staunch lifers and erstwhile visitors alike, and strike a resounding chord with anyone who has been left breathless by the majestic, unrelenting beauty of the shore.

 

About Robert Finch

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Robert Finch is the author of five collections of essays and co-editor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing. He broadcasts a weekly commentary on NPR and serves on the faculty of the MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University in Louisville, KY. He lives in Wellfleet, MA.
 
Published May 9, 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company. 328 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Outer Beach
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 07 2017

Nature, Finch knows, is more powerful than human intervention, and it is this power than enthralls him. Vivid and graceful reflections on water and wind, shifting sands, and the inevitability of change.

Read Full Review of The Outer Beach: A Thousand-M... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Fen montaigne on Jun 02 2017

This makes for a good deal of repetition...when he uncorked 25 pages on the Cape’s clay cliff formations, I nearly flung the book across the room. I’m glad I didn’t. In the end, Finch artfully conveys what is, at heart, so stirring about the beach: how its beauty and magisterial power cause us to ponder the larger things in life...

Read Full Review of The Outer Beach: A Thousand-M... | See more reviews from NY Times

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