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Last Night at the Lobster Paperback – October 28, 2008
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"A deeply moving novel about how we work, how we live, and how we get to the next day with our spirits intact. If there was ever a book that embodies what's best in us, it's Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster."
"[O'Nan's] vivid portrait of the Lobster ultimately conveys, somewhat miraculously, the warmth and comfort the restaurant provides Manny. . . . O'Nan's empathy for his characters is one of his greatest gifts as a novelist, and it is an impressive achievement that Manny's misplaced affection for Red Lobster is not risible, but tragic."
--The New York Times Book Review
"A masterful portrait. . . . The scope and emotional range of this poignant story are surprisingly narrow, as though O'Nan locked himself in a narrative box, tied one hand behind his back and then dared himself to make it engaging. The fact that he pulls it off is a testament to his precision and empathy."
--The Washington Post Book World
"In prose as wondrously spare as the lives of the characters, O'Nan exposes their pathos, a stripped-down fragility made all the more poignant by their fledgling efforts at resilience. These are dutiful characters, with modest dreams and deep humility, yet with a persistent, almost instinctive fortitude that enables them to get up each morning and try again."
--The Boston Globe
About the Author
Stewart O'Nan is the author of sixteen previous novels, including City of Secrets, West of Sunset, The Odds, Emily Alone, Songs for the Missing, Last Night at the Lobster, A Prayer for the Dying, and Snow Angels. His 2007 novel Last Night at the Lobster was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his family.
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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.
On the surface it's a book about a day in the life of Manny, a Red Lobster manager whose restaurant is closing. Beneath, there is much more going on. Manny is a good guy who genuinely loves his job and tries to do well by the folks who work for him. He's far from perfect, though. His girlfriend is pregnant and he cannot commit to her. Not because he doesn't want to do the right thing, but because he loves another.
That beloved is one of his staff, a beautiful waitress, who along with a few others of the motley crew, shows up for the Lobster's last night--not because she cares about her job, but because she cares about Manny.
I'd venture to say that anyone who has ever worked minimum wage, worked service industry, worked retail, worked in a restaurant, will find themselves within this book. You will understand the frustration, the ribbing, the improbable love. You will remember customers who were annoying, the dysfunctional relationships between coworkers. You will remember the times you laughed with the odd-ball group of people who became family to you.
From a merely human standpoint, this is a book about yearning--hope for a more beautiful future, desire to relive the past. For me, it was the perfect way to spend New Year's Eve: surveying the past, living in the present, and looking forward.
Most recent customer reviews
Well written; quick read.Read more