From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. It is no small achievement to take a quest for a rare, relatively unknown oyster and spin it into a delightful and never didactic instruction on marine conservation from the Chesapeake to Puget Sound. The once abundant Olympia oyster, or Oly, now exists in only a few areas of the jagged Pacific Northwest coastline, and Jacobson (Fruitless Fall
) and a merry band of conservationists and scientists set out to find the elusive bivalve and illustrate the vital ecosystem that both sustains and is sustained by oysters. Oysters are ecosystem engineers, Jacobson explains; their depletion sucks the life out of estuaries and oceans. He demonstrates the relationship between marine life and human survival, from the sustenance provided to native cultures over thousands of years, to the omega-3–rich shellfish that helped to sharpen the evolving human brain. Charming illustrations and a conservation resource list round out this slim and superb reminder of these simple creatures' vital importance to the grand scheme of life on land and sea. (Sept.)
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A science-rich yet lambent investigation into the fate of the Olympia oyster... Jacobsen is an artful storyteller, giving the oyster's story an aching bite. He is also a fine explicator, drawing clearly the pivotal role of the oyster in estuarine health... The author ruminates on some fascinating ideas, from prehistoric clam gardens to the role of shellfish in tool-making to the shoreline-based theory of human origins, which holds that inhabitants of the coast benefited from the easy harvest of brain-enriching fish and shellfish. Lovely science writing, and a smart look into where the work of ecological restoration is headed. (Kirkus
In 2008, [Jacobsen] signed on as the literary chronicler of a nine-member expedition to the pristine coast of British Columbia... It's not giving away any punch lines to reveal that Jacobsen's expedition found a remote estuary off the coast of Vancouver Island that is literally paved with Olympia oysters, and that the resulting ecological data may provide the key to a resurgence of the species in bays and raw bars along the Northwest coast. But Jacobsen's experience also provided him with food for thought. Just as agriculture led to the spread of civilization in the Old World, he believes, aquaculture may have spread civilization in the New World... He's equally persuasive in urging the preservation and protection of native shellfish habitats. After all, the oyster is his world - and the world, it seems to me, is his oyster. (Natural History
What too many of us so simply regard as the oyster, Rowan Jacobsen reveals as living gold--as currency of coastal cultures, engineer of ecosystems, the champagne toast of societies through the ages. Through Jacobsen's admiring eyes, we see the mystery and the magic in the humble oyster; we see the omen in a creature quietly disappearing from waters that once gave life to us all. (Will Stolzenburg, author of Where the Wild Things Were)