When a seed falls from a vine in the tropics and is carried by ocean currents across the Atlantic to the shores of Western Europe – it is known as a sea bean. It is still considered lucky to find a sea bean on the shore, they have been used as magical charms for more than a thousand years.
Sally's search for a sea bean begins not long after she moves to the windswept archipelago of Shetland. When pregnancy triggers a chronic illness and forces her to slow down, Sally takes to the beaches. There she discovers treasure freighted with story and curiosities that connect her to the world.
The wild shores of Shetland offer glimpses of orcas swimming through the ocean at dusk, the chance to release a tiny storm petrel into the dark of the night and a path of hope. This beachcombing path takes her from the Faroese archipelago to the Orkney islands, and the Dutch island of Texel. It opens a world of ancient myths, fragile ecology, and deep human history. It brings her to herself again.
Sea Bean is a message in a bottle. An interconnection of our oceans, communities and ourselves, and an invitation to feel belonging when we are adrift.
Sally Huband was born in Bristol in 1974. A writer and naturalist, she received a Masters in Conservation from University College London and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. For her doctorate, she combined ecology and ethnography to research the butterflies of hay meadow habitats in the Romanian Carpathians. She is a recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award, and her work has been published in Antlers of Water and Archipelago – A Reader. Sally lives in the Shetland Islands with her daughter, son and husband. Sea Bean is her first book.
"Sea Bean is a coastal treasure. Its hard-won attentiveness shows the wonder and vulnerability of our interconnected oceans, wildlife and people. In Sally's writing, beachcombing – an old island pursuit – is modern, revealing and restorative. The next time I am at the shore I will have a deeper appreciation and curiosity"
– Amy Liptrot
"Like its talismanic title, Huband's voice is distinct and singular. A gorgeous reckoning with the sea, islands and mythology"
– Sinead Gleeson
"A wild melding of body and landscape. A deep, immersive, storm-tossed read"
– Helen Jukes
"A hymn to the vast watery depths of our planet, Sally explores the vital connections between humans and the creatures contained within and shaped by our precious seas. Sea Bean is as vital and complex as the oceans themselves"
– Joanna Pocock
"A magical, moving, strange book"
– Jon Day
"A spectacular book, with a gorgeous slow, sad pace, full of quietly vital information. Sally seems to know just the right way to tell beautiful stories about quiet things. For me anyway, it's an instant classic of nature writing"
– Sara Baume
"Sally Huband is a perceptive and engaging guide to the shores of Shetland and beyond. Full of curiosity and candour, Sea Bean reveals the mysteries and wonders that are found where land and water meet"
– Malachy Tallack
"Sea Bean is a beautifully brave book about finding one's place in an uncertain world. For Sally Huband that place is the Shetland shoreline, where her extraordinary beachcombing finds in times of limiting illness connect her to the greater waters of wild wonder, ecological grief and the possibilities of community. It's a profoundly illuminating journey through the seas that ultimately encircle us all. But what makes this journey so special is that its movement comes from waiting; it emerges from the great patience and care needed to uncover the stories that are washed ashore from elsewhere. Sea Bean will change the way you look at the world's coasts"
– Julia Hoffman
"This is a book with real heart. As she scours the coastline of her wild island home, Huband shows us not only the delights of hunting for treasure amongst the detritus, but also the horrors of climate change in real time. It will change the way I look at beaches forever"
– Lulah Ellender
"A notable addition the canon of beachcombing literature [...] the inspiring story of a woman coming to terms with a life-changing medical condition by finding beauty and interest and wonder in the infinite variety of things she finds washed up along the shore"
"To write a message in a bottle, or a story for an imagined reader, both are labours of love, sent out without guarantee in the hope they might one day be found and read. I do hope Sally's message is found and read by many – I've no doubt they'll be better off for it [...] Huband's passion flows through the prose as she breathes life into this lesser-known pastime [...] Frank, learned and lyrical"
– Books From Scotland