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Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm Hardcover – October 11, 2011

31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“While most books about oysters tell people what they want to hear, Shucked tells it like it is: the frigid winter days on the water with hands like popsicles, the backbreaking work, the anxiety of nurturing thousands of dollars' worth of oyster seed, the hard-partying nights. Erin Byers Murray captures the seasonal rhythms of the New England coast and the romance of one exceptional company's efforts to coax great food from the sea. You'll never take an oyster for granted again.” ―Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters

“Part adventure, part memoir, part culinary awakening, Erin Byers Murray's rite of passage from novice to connoisseur takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the world of the oyster. On the way, she gives us pearls of wisdom and wit--both served up on the half shell. Cocktail sauce is optional but don't miss this book.” ―Christopher White, author of Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen

“Part of the book's charm is following Murray through the process of becoming aware of her surroundings in working directly with an edible product. Readers who enjoy Linda Greenlaw's writing...will appreciate Murray's offering of just enough information to allow them to become knowledgeable in all things oyster without overdoing it. ...Murray's portrayal of her personal response to life's changes and challenges will hold readers' interest. An entertaining and informative firsthand experience of the locavore movement.” ―Library Journal

“Murray's own love of food and food writing informs the narrative, and she skillfully dramatizes the scenes of summertime sowing and depicts her many colorful co-workers. Murray eschews poetic waxing on her subject and focuses closely on the action and the hard, hard work of farming, closing each chapter with a broad range of oyster recipes.” ―Publishers Weekly

“...a new understanding of locavorism and an appreciation for tradition.” ―The Sacramento Bee

About the Author

ERIN BYERS MURRAY is a Boston area journalist, specializing in food and wine writing. Most recently, she was the Boston editor for Her work as been published in the Boston Globe, Food and Wine, Boston Magazine, Bon Appetit, and many more. Visit her at


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312681917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312681913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luke Doiron on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to quit your "stable" yet "boring" career and set of into uncharted waters? Do you long for a life lived simply, purely, and without regrets? Have you ever wished you would have the chance to work with people who loved what they do... but more importantly WHY they do it? Do you want to be happy? If any of these questions resonate with you, buy this book. Forget that, buy two copies and give one to your significant other. A master of artistic prose, Murray takes the reader on an incredible ride through the lives of many souls willing to shuck the stable for the great unknown. This will go down as the most important book you've read in the last 12 months. REMEMBER, the only difference between you today and you 12 months from now will be 3 things: (1) the places you go, (2) the people you meet, and (3) the books you read. Read this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Speaktomimi on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great read by a credible writer who spent 18 months working as a farmer at Island Creek Oysters. Her witty and engaging commentary, coupled with her culinary background, makes this an interesting, fun and informative book. Can't wait to try the recipes at the end of each chapter!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ditch on July 11, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book begins with what it says it is going cover, a woman decides to chuck her fairly shallow (by her own account) life as an entertainment blogger where she basically tells hipsters what to like and where to go, with little critical assessment needed, and instead see what it takes to work on an oyster farm on the Mass coast for a year. Her account is fun, realistic of the work involved and interesting. And though she is not an oyster expert, some good information comes through in a way that is engaging. I have given it three stars to reflect that for a little over half of the book it is definitely worth a read. And I would recommend it even if you are planning to just read the first half. But only three stars here is for a reason.

About 2/3s way through she basically reverts to writing about all her encounters with the "fabulous" elite of celebrity chefs and restauranteurs. At this point she simply gushes over her subjects and her being included in whatever scene she is lucky enough to be part of. We get to read breathless lines like: "...a very special appearance from super chef Daniel Boulud, who, during one of his swings through the party, jumped behind the raw bar to shuck oysters with us....Boulud was a party animal whose presence ... turned the crowd from vaguely entertained to hog wild."


"By now I was fully enamored of his style of cooking; by opening a Latin-inspried restaurant he'd completely stolen my heart."

I mean, really?

At that point it will occur to you that perhaps you have picked up a different book for your read on the train to work; what happened to the book about working on an oyster farm? How did we get back to this pampered woman, when she was beginning to show such promise as a serious person? I can't answer that, but I hope she can really learn to stop writing as if she is on the staff of Boston Magazine. There is potential there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Blanding on October 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Early on in Erin Byers Murray's Shucked, her eminently readable account of the 18 months she spent getting her hands dirty at a Massachusetts oyster farm, she contends that oysters are best served naked with just a little bit of lemon. You might say the same about Murray's writing style, which is as raw as a bivalve on the half shell, with just enough tartness to keep it from becoming overly deep or self-absorbed.

I expected to learn a lot about what it takes to get an oyster from tide to plate, and I wasn't disappointed--Murray's funny and thoroughly unglamorous view of the mucky tides and chilly days out on the oyster float have given me a whole new appreciation for just how much work goes into that satisfying slurp. What I didn't expect was how personal this book would be--the author opens up about her own difficulties and triumphs adjusting to life exposed to the elements, her conflicts and confederacies with the rowdy mostly-male crew of the oyster growers, and the strain her new life put on her marriage with disarming honesty and humor, making the reader ask him or herself what s/he'd do to follow a crazy dream in order to concoct a new definition of happiness.

My one criticism is that there wasn't enough about the history and lore of oysters (I could be wrong, but I don't think the word "aphrodisiac" is even mentioned!) Towards the end, Murray writes about an oyster primer she made for the staff of the new Island Creek Oyster Bar the company opened, and I found myself wishing she'd included part of it in the book itself. Maybe it could be an appendix in the paperback!

But bottom line: if you care about oysters, or just about stories of personal transformation, you'll find yourself flying through the pages of this book. And maybe even wishing you could throw on some waders and join the harvest on the next low tide.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Rayaas on August 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a really great book. I heard the author on NPR and was intrigued. I could not find it in my local library so bought it on my Kindle. Well worth the money. I have never tried oysters before but have been really wanting to since reading the book. However, having never "shucked" an oyster before (and the fact that I live far from good seafood in my little town) I will wait until I can get them at a good seafood restaurant. Loved the details about "oyster poop" and the day-to-day work on the farm. The book was easy to read with a lot of good information on oyster farming. I would recommend this book to others.
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