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Last Night at the Lobster Paperback – October 28, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Set on the last day of business of a Connecticut Red Lobster, this touching novel by the author of Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying tells the story of Manny DeLeon, a conscientious, committed restaurant manager any national chain would want to keep. Instead, corporate has notified Manny that his—and Manny does think of the restaurant as his—New Britain, Conn., location is not meeting expectations and will close December 20. On top of that, he'll be assigned to a nearby Olive Garden and downgraded to assistant manager. It's a loss he tries to rationalize much as he does the loss of Jacquie, a waitress and the former not-so-secret lover he suspects means more to him than his girlfriend Deena, who is pregnant with his child. On this last night, Manny is committed to a dream of perfection, but no one and nothing seems to share his vision: a blizzard batters the area, customers are sparse, employees don't show up and Manny has a tough time finding a Christmas gift for Deena. Lunch gives way to dinner with hardly anyone stopping to eat, but Manny refuses to close early or give up hope. Small but not slight, the novel is a concise, poignant portrait of a man on the verge of losing himself. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In his 10th novel, Stewart ONan proves once again why hes the "bard of the working class" by exploring how the closing of one chain restaurant profoundly affects many lives. Last Night at the Lobster may be a small story, dealing with the mundane details of restaurant life, but ONans complex characters provide a servicean everyday feat that many American novels ignore. Almost all critics praised the novel as a triumph in realism. ONan has certainly written bigger, more plot-driven stories before, but Lobster shows off his "pitch perfect ear for life in late 20th century America" to great effect (San Francisco Chronicle). Its a "Zen koan of a book" (Los Angeles Times), and not to be missedespecially if youve served your share of scampi in life.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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A short novel, at around 150 pages, "Last Night at the Lobster" takes the reader through a long workday, starting with the opening and ending with the closing of the restaurant, and the reader gets a very detailed look at the many tasks involved in running a restaurant. For those thinking about purchasing this book, be advised that there is a LOT of this detail (Manny spends much time going through his checklist of chores, and the work done in the kitchen, at the bar, and even the mopping of every spill are documented thoroughly). This may be off-putting to those whose tastes run toward faster-moving, action-packed tales. However, I found it to be very interesting (having never worked at a restaurant, it was informative), and it helped add to the novel's vivid realism.
"Last Night at the Lobster" has moments of drama, involving conflicts between the staff, and between the staff and some difficult customers, and it even leaves the Red Lobster behind for awhile to follow Manny as he does some last-minute holiday shopping at a nearby mall during a break. At its essence, however, this novel is a character study of Manny. Struggling to do the "right thing" with temptations swirling around him, trying to set a good example and stay on the right course, even when doing so seems difficult and unrewarding, Manny comes across as a flawed, beleaguered, yet completely believable (and respectable) human being.
So spend a night at the Lobster. Just like Manny and his restaurant, you'll be sad to close this book for the final time!
It helps to have worked with a team of people, and it helps to appreciate what work is, the dignifying nature of doing the job right. The human condition is illuminated by finding better understanding of a chubby manager and his troubles with women, employees, and customers.
Yet on another level, the author creates a spare and wonderful style that is really enjoyable to read.
Any work of fiction that captures what a real person is like, is in itself wonderful. So many characters and stories are blown up, vaporous and turgid accounts of unbelievable characters and their made up life situations. This book finds art in the telling, and is an excellent read.
O'Nan nailed us and painted us for us to read. Don't worry about whether he nailed restaurant workers--just know that we aren't that different when it comes to matters of the heart. That we let so many opportunities slip by while we fiddle, in our heads, with the right thing to say, or with the right feeling we should have.
And if you finished it, you'll know what it means to push for that extra 30 minutes to have just for you, especially when you know you're heading down a path that may not be completely of your choosing.