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Oyster: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060514477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060514471
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Much feted for his debut collection of stories, The Torturer's Apprentice, Biguenet follows up with a steamy first novel set on the Louisiana coast. The Petitjeans and the Bruneaus are rival oyster fishing families in Plaquemines Parish in 1957, struggling to survive in an environment rapidly falling prey to petroleum companies and their ravaging of swamp and bayou ecosystems. As it gets more difficult to hang on economically, old families begin to slip. The Petitjean family, headed by Felix, has reluctantly turned to "Horse" Bruneau for a loan. Desperate for cash, Felix and his wife, Mathilde, approve Horse's plan to marry their daughter, Therese. Therese scotches that plan by luring Horse to the Petitjean property for a supposed midnight tryst, then murdering him. When Horse's body turns up in a trawler's net, his sons Darryl ("Little Horse") and Ross (with their gentler brother, Rusty, looking on in horror) murder Therese's brother, Alton, who they blame for Horse's murder since nobody even considers that a slip of a girl like Therese could kill the powerful Horse. Darryl has always hated Alton, anyway, suspecting (rightly, as it turns out) that Alton is his half brother the fruit of an affair between Mathilde and Horse. After the murder, Sheriff Christovich, an old beau of Mathilde's, manipulates Darryl into letting Rusty work for the Petitjeans, hoping Rusty will talk. But it is Therese who exacts vengeance on the Bruneau house with the implacability of a Plaquemines Lady Macbeth. While Biguenet makes the Bruneaus, except for Rusty, a bit too villainous and Therese a bit too clever for plausibility's sake, his debut satisfyingly penetrates the curtain of gumbo clich surrounding Cajun culture. (June) Forecast: Booksellers may expect to build handily on the success of The Torturer's Apprentice with this juicy follow-up and should certainly capitalize on the novel's regional appeal.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The oyster-rich bayou country of Louisiana in the 1950s is the setting for this remarkable first novel by Biguenet, author of the O. Henry Award-winning collection of short stories The Torturer's Apprentice. The bitter family rivalry between the Bruneaus and the Petitjeans, deeply rooted in their entangled past, leads to tragedy from the outset. A marriage arranged between young Therese Petitjean and the Bruneau patriarch to shore up the Petitjeans' finances ends violently in the first chapter, and matters don't improve from there. Day-to-day life for the oyster fishermen of the period is realistically portrayed as this tale of two doomed families unfolds. Colorful characters and a story line that rips along make this work captivating from start to finish. Comparisons to Faulkner might be a stretch, but Biguenet's steamy Southern flavor is memorable. Recommended for most fiction collections. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's hard to put the book down once you start reading.
Patrick Brans
I enjoyed this book very much great story, great characters and I like the bayou setting for the story.
joanne g. homer
This book was average at best--certainly nothing approaching a classic.
Liz Cary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Brans on October 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First of all the setting takes you away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. This story takes place in the bayous and swamps of Louisiana in the late 1950's - a time when Oyster farmers were threatened by the polution of modern industry. I happen to come from Louisiana and can say that the author captured this very well.
Second, Biguenet's style is lively and rhythmic. He rarely takes refuge in boring verbs like "to be" or "to have", instead using more descriptive verbs to carry his sentences.
Biguenet develops the characters like an expert psychologist, making the reader feel the struggles with guilt and family loyalties. The story unfolds very naturally and as it goes on you see how some of the characters dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. It's hard to put the book down once you start reading.
I have also read another work by this author, "The Torturer's Apprentice", and I note that he picks interesting settings and really gets into the details of those settings. He also does a nice job of portraying the way people deal with guilt.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. J. Mathews VINE VOICE on September 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
`Oyster' is a great book on every level. For simple reading it's a gritty story of murder, revenge and steamy passion. It centers on a feud between the two leading families of the Plaquemines Parish, LA, oyster industry. Felix Petitjean and family represent the long established leading family of the parish while Darryl `Horse' Bruneau and his three sons are the brash, heavy-fisted newcomers who have carved a niche for themselves by buying up the leases of destitute competitors.
Horse ("This child wants to know why I'm called The Horse. Think she's old enough to see?") dies early in the story but his personality is so forceful that his spirit is felt long after his body sinks into the bayou. Even dead he manipulates the actions of the story's characters, for good or (more likely) ill.
At first I was concerned that Biguenet was steering his readers toward a Cajun `Romeo and Juliet' but he avoided falling into that trap. That would not have worked at all in this rough-and-tumble setting. In its place, the author offered a much more compelling plot, deftly enhanced by intricately woven interrelationships of love and hatred.
But Biguenet, an English professor at Loyola, didn't settle for just a simple read. Some have compared John Biguenet to William Faulkner but I don't see it. James Dickey maybe, but I never found Faulkner to be this entertaining. Nevertheless, social allegory lurks just below the surface of Bayou Petitjean, as omnipresent as the gators. Therese Petitjean is stirring up existence in Egret Pass as certainly and inexorably as the channels cut by the oil companies are changing the sedentary life of the oysters. It soon becomes very apparent that "It ain't like the old days, Darryl."
This is a must read. Rustle up some shrimp etouffee, put on the Beausoleil and make yourself very comfortable. You won't want to put this down for a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Little Brother Real Snake on August 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
John Biguenet hooked me and carried me into the salt marshes and small towns of Southern Louisiana in 1957. I felt the humidity, smelled the salt marsh, tasted the jumbalaya, heard the clattering of winches and felt the nets on my hands. The characters are memorable, the story engaging and the twists and turns of the plot kept me hooked until the very end. This page turning yarn explores issues such as justice or revenge, the impact of "economic development" on traditional lifestyles, and how actions - - sometimes from decades earlier - - can rear their heads and bite us, all without any preachiness. This is a strong novel and leaves me eager for number two.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
John Biguenet's Oyster is a deeply dark and interesting novel that tells the tale of two familes immersed in a deadly rivalry in the late 1950s. The characters are well developed and the plot is engaging to the reader. Biguenet reminds one of Faulkner and I would highly recommend this novel which is hard to put down. I was sorry when I finished it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Oyster is set in the heart of the Louisiana bayou, a tale replete with strange characters, infidelity, greed and murder. It is a world filled with violence as ominous and sudden as the bite of a crocodile.
The Petitjean's own the richest oyster beds in the parish, but they are heavily in debt to their rivals, the Bruneau's. "Horse" Bruneau and his three sons are ready to take over all the beds still producing in spite of the ongoing damage from the oil companies that are slowly polluting the waters. Planning to join the holdings of both families through a marriage of convenience, Horse Bruneau pursues Therese Petitjean. But Therese is not about to be tendered as a piece of merchandise, although she does realize that the union would benefit her family financially. Family loyalty is paramount in both clans, and blood defines every action.
Suddenly, violence erupts, two are dead and there are questions that cannot easily be answered. Local citizens are curious about the crimes, but never surprised by bizarre circumstances. Sheriff Christovitch, a man who is familiar with the histories of all the suspects and has a past of his own, attempts to ascertain exactly the who, how and why of the murders.
As twisted and mysterious as the murky bayou, the novel takes one unexpected turn after another. Some of the more colorful characters, including Horse and Horse, Junior, have natures as bent and narrow as the gnarled roots of the ancient trees that extend deep below the waterline. A challenge to man's true nature, there is no pity, or easy answer when life and death are at stake. Two wrongs never make a right. Or do they? Luan Gaines/2003.
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