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Last Night at the Lobster Hardcover – November 1, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In his 10th novel, Stewart O’Nan proves once again why he’s 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 O’Nan’s complex characters provide a service—an everyday feat that many American novels ignore. Almost all critics praised the novel as a triumph in realism. O’Nan 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). It’s a "Zen koan of a book" (Los Angeles Times), and not to be missed—especially if you’ve served your share of scampi in life.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018277
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gayla M. Collins VINE VOICE on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Manny, the manager of a terminated Red Lobster begins his last shift with optimism and melancholy. In all things Manny dreams for gold, but an impending blizzard is promising him lead at best. His girlfriend at home is pregnant, he is being demoted to assistant manager at an Olive Garden 15 miles away, his girlfriend at work has broken it off, and most of his crew decided to jump ship. Not an auspicious start to the day that Manny dreams of showing the [...] bastards they have made an egregious mistake in closing his restaurant.

O'Nan's descriptions are wonderfully adept; his characters warted humanity; his dialogues astutely sharp and witty. The man has captured life in the service industry and gives all his readers a taste. If you worked in any of these capacities yourselves you will find your pride and your grievances deliciously dished up. Hungry for every word, the reader will gobble down all the friction, the pain, the laughter and the circumstances, and like, Manny, wish it would never have to end.

Treat yourself to this banquet of a book. You will not go away wanting.
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Format: Hardcover
Once again, Stewart O'Nan proves that his eyes, ears and heart are always open. This deceptively slender volume holds more integrity than books 5 times its size. This story of a man who continues to maintain an honorable sense of correctness for his own innate decency, despite the understandable sense of "short termer's malaise," can't help but increase a reader's appreciation of what it takes to operate a familiar restaurant, especially if the reader's never had the opportunity to work in one. I know that I will never regard the person (usually wearing a tie) who is quietly watching all that goes on in my local restaurant, quite the same ever again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No, this is not a sequel to The Old Man and the Sea, though the idea is charming. We are entirely landlocked and the hero is, from my perspective, more of a young man. And there is no shark around, the corporate office is scared away by the blizzard.
What it is, is a case study in leadership in adversity: the owners ('corporate'!) (I wouldn't dare say anything bad about them, just on the off risk that someone there is actually literate!) have decided to close down the Red Lobster in New Britain, presumably the numbers were not good enough (though just as likely some schoolboy bean counter needed to prove his sharpness).
The manager, Manny, has to run it till closing time on the last day, in the middle of a blizzard, and with only 4 of the staff, in addition to Manny, being given a job elsewhere next week. So why should they bother to show up at all? Exactly Manny's problem. And once they have come, how to make them stay? And how to handle his failed love story with the waitress that he wanted to keep, but who doesn't want to be kept?
A brillant, lean and efficient short novel or long story taken out of the heart of work life. This is it, folks, that's the way life is run.
Even a thriller in a way, though we have to settle for petty theft and petty vandalism.
The man has been translated into German, and has had good reviews there, but since I don't like to read translations, I had to wait for an AF to tell me to read this. Thanks to her!
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Format: Hardcover
I usually refrain from adding more comments if my predecessors have already done a good job of describing the plot, addressing the writing style, and recommending the book to future readers. But LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER deserves at least another five-star review, if not ten more. It's a quick and entertaining read, with a hook that can snag anyone who's ever worked in or eaten at a chain restaurant -- in other words, most of the reading American public.

Manny DeLeon has a lot on his plate. His Red Lobster restaurant is closing, and its last day coincides with a snow storm; Christmas is not far away, and he still has to get a gift for his pregnant girlfriend; at the same time, he continues to agonize over his failed relationship with one of his female employees; and in the midst of it all, he has to wear his manager hat for the next 13 hours and deal with recalcitrant or missing workers as well as rude or uncooperative patrons. Welcome to the wonderful world of customer service! What will happen when the clock strikes eleven?

I picked up this volume after reading a newspaper interview with the author, and I am definitely glad I did. It's my first Stewart O'Nan book, so I cannot speak to the rest of his catalog. This one will stay with me for quite a while. I will be thinking about Manny and some of his staff members for some time to come. It wouldn't surprise me at all if restaurant franchises of all sizes make this book mandatory reading for managerial personnel. As noted by another reviewer, Manny is a flawed but conscientious supervisor. What he has to deal with is as close to real life as literature can get -- with some tragic moments and others that are laugh-out-loud insane. Oh, and I'd be happy to take those left-over biscuits off your hands, Manny! A slice of life worthy of wide readership.
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By Elmer on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Stewart O'Nan's new book entitled "Last Night at the Lobster" is a great snapshot of America. If this book were a photograph it would be one that's a bit out of focus, creased, and torn at one corner, one that you bend to pick up from the sidewalk outside your favorite diner. In the tradition of William Carlos Williams, O'Nan speaks in the vernacular and he's comfortable doing it. It's amazing how much information O'Nan packs into this thin offering. He's known as the working man's writer, a guy you'd love to hang out with. A guy who doesn't end his sentences with prepositions, but won't ever correct you for doing so. You can imagine having dinner with O'Nan. He's the 21st century flaneur, eavesdropping on the smallest detail at the next table.

O'Nan's "Last Night at the Lobster," leaves one feeling a bit stunned. The main character smokes dope and has a conscience. O'Nan shines a light on characters who are usually outside of history. I love this book. Something about the way O'Nan describes snow (here and in his other works) makes you hunch up your shoulders and shiver. It won't change your life; but it may give you a new understanding of the people who are serving up your fast food. Now you can feel better about leaving a slightly bigger tip at the diner. My only criticism of the book is that someone at Viking could have taken the time to photoshop the redeye from the author's photograph.
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