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Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  457 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Bill Buford's Heat meets Phoebe Damrosch's Service Included in this unique blend of personal narrative, food miscellany, and history

In March of 2009, Erin Byers Murray ditched her pampered city girl lifestyle and convinced the rowdy and mostly male crew at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to let a completely unprepared, aquaculture-illiterate food and li
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by St. Martin's Press
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Community Reviews

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Oct 10, 2011 Eric rated it really liked it
What did I know about oysters? In retrospect, next to nothing until I read Shucked, by Erin Byers Murray. In fact, my only experience with harvesting shellfish was limited to a couple of hours spent digging clams at a beach behind my sister’s apartment in Winthrop, Massachusetts. The only thing that I remember was the pain in my lower back and the relief that I felt when the tide finally rolled in and we had to call it quits for the day. It’s hard work! Yet the author of this book left her comfo ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Since moving to Cape Cod and having my husband go out to fetch oysters and then cook them up for me, I came to take them for granted. Add to that a friend who drops by with enough oysters for a party, having us wonder, how are we going to eat all these!? Our neighbors, who really love them right from the shell, love seeing us coming with a bag full. Well, I figured it was time to see where these tasty sea creatures came from and realize how lucky I am to have free access.

Erin Byers Murray decid
Nov 10, 2011 Al rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-books
A really great food/life journey memoir, a la Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

I'm a little biased as I love Island Creek oysters, but there was so much I did not know and it was so fun finding out!
Feb 07, 2012 May-Ling rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie
one word review: backbreaking

it's funny for me to pick up such a book since i actually don't like oysters that much. i make myself eat one every few years in case it's something i'll grow out of, but i still haven't gotten to the point where i enjoy the taste.

that said, i still found the world of oyster farming fascinating. it's hard work! i was turned off by erin murray's initial approach to how easy she thought it would be, but i guess she learned her lesson along the way.

there's something ch
Nov 05, 2011 Crystal rated it liked it
Essentially, Erin Murray was the Boston editor for Daily Candy, and decided to quit her job and work on an oyster farm for a year. This is, of course, the stuff that books are made of. She describes in glorious detail the mundane chores on the farm-grading oysters by size, cleaning the cages, counting and bagging in wet and freezing conditions. It's not all terrible; she develops close-knit relationships with her coworkers and a greater appreciation for the nurturing role of farmers who get food ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Lee rated it it was ok
In Shucked, the author takes readers through a year and a half she works at a successful oyster farming business in Duxbury, MA. She does a good job describing how she helped set out the tiny seeds, harvest mature oysters at low tide and then grade them. Her work at oyster festivals and trade shows produced some funny stories, and I enjoyed reading of her visit to a famed New York restaurant that serves their Island Creek Oysters.

The author is a young writer who seems to be doing physical labor
Jan 26, 2012 Kara rated it liked it
Oh Shucked....
First of all (by my own fault), this book wasn't what I expected. Perhaps because it has "Life" in the title, I was under the impression that I was going to be reading about someone who spent her life (growing up) on an oyster farm. I must have read the description and then promptly forgotten it.
I did enjoy the way she recounted her time at Island Creek (and the toll it initially took on her marriage) but there were so many other things that popped up that left me sort of annoyed.
Mar 14, 2012 Angeline rated it really liked it
It was lovely to have gotten to know the ins and outs of the oyster lifecycle through a novice turned pro. Erins straightforward and chronological retelling of her bold career move is inpsiring. The journalistic effort to stay factual and let the subject stand on its own feet allows a trust in erins ability to stay relatively objective on the subject. Yet the dramatic moments suffer from this approach as the tempo and rythem of the story remains relativly flat. In all, a charming read that kept ...more
Mar 27, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it
oyster farming is one of the most sustainable types of food farming there is. Oysters filter the water and remove impurities. I learned so much about these tasty bivalves. This book is about a writer for a "Living Social" type website in Boston who gives it up to work on the water harvesting and "planting" oysters for 18 months. Let's the reader live vicariously through her shunning of the corporate world to raise food. It's not a glamorous job, and the conditions are stark, but still she manage ...more
Apr 09, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it
I read this book with a bias: I love oysters. I like to eat them and as a hobby I grow them in a river near the Chesapeake Bay. Murray's book was well written, engaging, and added to my appreciation for how a commercial oyster farm operates. The chapter in which Murray and a few of her Island Creek Oyster colleagues visit Per Se in New York City is worth the price of the book alone.

I would have liked a bit more nuanced description of the other employees with whom Murray worked, though. They all
Cassie Ormonde
Jun 07, 2012 Cassie Ormonde rated it liked it
I must admit, I had a hard time in the beginning of the book trying to understand why a Boston food and lifestyle writer would want to leave her cushy, perk-filled job to become an oyster farmer. In the end, I came to appreciate the courage it took Murray to try something completely new, to change her entire lifestyle and to take a major risk with her career and relationship. Murray really captures the breathtaking, heart-breaking summers of New England that fade out as quickly as they come in, ...more
Brooke Mcdonough
Sep 18, 2012 Brooke Mcdonough rated it it was amazing
For foodies and locavores, Shucked, Life on a New England Oyster Farm will be a hit. Author Erin Byers-Murray gave up her job as a food and lifestyle editor to farm oysters with the hard-working crew at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury. Shucked gives an in-depth look at oysters and the hearty souls who brave all the extremes coastal weather doles out. From the oysters’ starting point as delicate seeds to the starring role on extravagant menus in top restaurants across the country, you are guided ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Kristin rated it really liked it
Cue up descriptions of days planting oysters in frigid weather, back breaking work moving crates of these hard shelled creatures and mind numbing days spent sorting them for size. These descriptions would lead you to believe that “Shucked” is only about farming oysters in New England. I for one was drawn to this true story because of my familiarity with its setting and a curiosity of what “those people” actually did on the water and on the docks throughout the year.

In reality, Erin Byers Murray’
Lindsey Dyda
Jan 11, 2013 Lindsey Dyda rated it really liked it
I loved this book, maybe partly because of all the New England imagery and the ability to live vicariously through the author's visit to Per Se and other fabulous dining. Truth is, I hate seafood and have never tried an oyster, but I found all the imagery fascinating and you could feel the passion for oyster farming in this book. I almost even wanted to try an oyster after reading it. There were times when it would briefly drag/get a bit overdescriptive, but it did not at all take away from my e ...more
Jun 21, 2013 Louise rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, food, memoir
This is about a woman who took a year off her cushy writing job to become an oyster farmer. If that sounds boring, then this book probably isn't for you. But if you're curious like me about the oyster industry, then this book delivers. I was a little apprehensive that reading about the gritty details of oyster farming would turn me off from oysters, but this gives a sometimes glamorous look at the life of the oyster farmers at Island Creek Oyster farms. I know it made me crave the briny little b ...more
J. Kathryn
Aug 27, 2013 J. Kathryn rated it liked it
The memoir aspect of this story reads a bit like a well off woman descending into the working class world of oyster farmers in order to have an experience to share at fancy oyster bars. This book significantly increased my knowledge about oyster farming, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
Rock Angel

Colloquial writing style. I read some of its first 18 pages. She sounded like one of those shiny happy people who boldly marches to the beat of her own drummer. And one very much a do-er.

Amazing reviews on Amazon. Too bad it's not avail in audio format.
Apr 14, 2015 Maria rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa Currier
Mar 25, 2014 Melissa Currier rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It was a vicarious read/journey for me. Have you ever just wanted to chuck it all? Left turn? Sabbatical?
This woman did it. And shared her life-changing (and life-affirming) story in this charming and anecdotal book. It was really fun to meld her experiences with my own impressions of the characters on the flats and in the restaurants and marine businesses of Wellfleet.
May 08, 2014 Jen rated it really liked it
This book arrived as a total surprise in the mail from a friend who knows I love reading. It wouldn't have been something I picked up on my own, but I really enjoyed it. The basic premise of the book is that Erin Byers Murray is a prestigious and well-paying gig as a writer for the popular website the Daily Candy, but decided to leave it all to put on her hip boots and go work on an oyster farm for a year, and wrote about it. Reading the overview on the dust jacket, I was worried I was about to ...more
Jul 09, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
As a fan of oysters, the Island Creek Oyster Bar, and all things New England it was fun to learn more about all the backside of this work. It's definitely a wide eyed view with a lot focused on the dramatic shift she made in her own life to work there but it does give a fair amount of detail on oyster farming for those unfamiliar. Not the most engaging of reads, but fun for a quick summer jaunt.
Jun 10, 2014 Greg rated it liked it
A perfectly good non-fiction read, and good for anyone who wonders more about what it's like to work with oysters. It's 352 pages, but it didn't feel long. The subject was interesting to me. It has a very journalistic sensibility to it--like a book-long Rolling Stones article, which isn't really a bad thing.

I suffered from a lack of common ground with the writer. It's not a fair complaint to level against a book which is, after all, a personal account, but there were certain things that had me r
Jul 20, 2014 Michelle rated it did not like it
Shelves: food
A while ago I read The Secret Lives of Lobsters and learned more than I could ever have imagined about lobsters. It was a story of many sides of the lobster trade and packed chock full of information. I picked up Shucked expecting a similarly informative read. Unfortunately, Shucked is more of a personal memoir than a book about oysters. More unfortunately, despite her love of MFK Fisher, she has nowhere near that author's talent to craft an engaging memoir centered around food. I learned a litt ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Pauline rated it it was ok
Going through a huge oyster kick this summer so this was the perfect easy read. It's hard to go from serious novels to frivolous stories like this. While it was interesting to learn about oyster farming and how it goes from farm to table, the author's writing was very amateurish - surprising since she wants to be a writer after her year plus break from her city career at daily candy. She wasn't really likable either - trying to hard to fit in and make you like her came off as fake.

I liked readin
Mary Dotson
Aug 28, 2014 Mary Dotson rated it it was amazing
This book has a big head start with me: it is set in my home town of Duxbury, MA and includes a couple of characters I have known since childhood. Erin's life turn from lifestyle writer to the oyster farmer is the structure of the book is amusingly told, taking us from the meticulous work of nursing oysters in their "seed" infancy, to the grueling processing of shellfish in bitterly freezing conditions to the rarified environment of serving oysters in a top restaurant. Overall, it's a love lette ...more
Feb 18, 2015 Martine rated it liked it
Gave a good look into Island Creek, a company I was already very familiar with, but never really understood how the oyster farming thing worked. I didn't love the author, though. I'm not sure if it was her writing style or what, but I just didn't really like her all that much. Making herself the underdog and the "look at how far I've come" feeling felt really forced, and it seemed like the majority of the book was her name-dropping this famous chef and that famous restaurant. It's cool to see ho ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
I enjoyed this book. The author can be a little snarky at times, but overall it is a very interesting story. She gives a very clear distinction of the process for raising and harvesting farmed oysters, and the economics behind it. I only wish she'd spoken more about the effects of runoff/pollution on the oyster beds. She mentioned that when it rains the beds can be closed, but she didn't address the upstream sources for this pollution. I think in understanding oyster farming, it is important to ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
My grammar is atrocious. I write how I speak. I warn you now and apologize in advance.
My mother absolutely loved raw oysters. It was one of the few treats she would afford to only herself when we were at a seaside town in Massachusetts. I always asked her what they tasted like and thought they were disgusting.
Years after I had grown and my mother had passed, I discovered my love for them. I was having an after work drink at an old local french american bar.
A dollar per raw oyster? Why the
Katie Schnuck
Jul 27, 2015 Katie Schnuck rated it it was amazing
After becoming unattactively obsession with oysters, oyster farming, oyster eating, and oysters just in general, this book fell into my lap from one of my relatives, whom told me to read it and insisted this would hold me over.

Not a chance, it not only made me hungry for more information about the species but Erin Murray really brought new light on the oyster to the table, no pun intended.

This book was really well written, the photos in the center of the book are a plus, and I felt like she was
Sep 17, 2016 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Loved it - fun inside view of growing, harvesting, selling and eating oysters - plus recipes!
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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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