From the inside cover:
Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster hasn’t been making it’s numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift. With only four shopping days left until Christmas, Manny must convince his near-mutinous staff to hunker down and serve the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he is still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend at home, and where to find the present that will make everything better.
Stewart O’Nan’s LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER is a different kind of story. It’s not a big book, only 160 pages. Some call it a novella. It’s simply told with easy characters, yet the story finds a place in your heart. At least it did for me. Maybe it’s because when I was younger I worked as a waitress for a chain steakhouse, so many of the issues and tribulations Manny dealt with, I could relate to. Reading this story brought back fond memories of that time for me. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know that the employees become a family of sorts. There’s a camaraderie that is different than other places of work. Unless you’ve been there, its kind of hard to explain.
As you follow Manny through that last day, it becomes clear that he is a man who takes his responsibilities seriously and it doesn’t matter that it’s the last day the doors will be open. He will not compromise the restaurant at all. As the day goes on, Manny becomes nostalgic and finds that he is more attached to his life at the Lobster than he realized.
O’Nan does a wonderful job of exploring and expressing the somewhat mundane habits of a regular, working class guy who is a manager of a restaurant. It’s not glamorous work, but its honest and necessary and its also probably overlooked by a lot of customers who patronize these eateries. Someone has to be there to get things cranked up in the morning, to make sure the employees show up and do their jobs with a minimal amount of bickering and not too much horsing around. And Manny DeLeon is that guy.
I enjoyed this book and I liked the character of Manny. He’s a likeable guy who is just trying to make it through the day and not ride anybody’s case too hard, but still make sure things get done. He’s just a good guy. This is the kind of book you might choose to read in between others with intense subject matter. With only 160 pages you can read it in a day. For me, this was an enjoyable book that looks at an everyday guy’s life. This is the first of Stewart O’Nans books I’ve read and I will definitely be picking up another.
LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER
Author: Stewart O’Nan
Publisher: Viking Penguin Adult
Published: November 2007
Rating: 4 our of 5 stars