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Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

Last Night at the Lobster (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Stewart O'Nan

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1,0491008,030 (3.8)201
Title:Last Night at the Lobster
Authors:Stewart O'Nan
Info:Penguin Books (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 146 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, restaurants

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Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan (2007)


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With Last Night At the Lobster, author Steward O’Nan has perfectly captured a moment in time that made the reading experience feel quite voyeuristic. The final hours of a Red Lobster Restaurant in New England occurring on a snowy night just five days before Christmas had an authenticity about it that made the reading all the more poignant. I have often frequented these types of chain restaurants that are housed in the back end of a mall parking lot and so the book had a familiar yet despondent note.

More of a mood piece than an actual story, we step into the restaurant and immediately are caught up in the employee’s last shift. As the manager, Manny opens the restaurant we learn that corporate management is closing them down. Some have jobs to move onto and others are being simply let go. It’s understandable that most of the employees who are being let go fail to show up, leaving the rest to scramble to keep the business flowing smoothly. A few customers-from-hell, a couple of surly employees, and the blighted love affair of the manager and one of the waitresses liven up the final hours of the Red Lobster but as the hours tick down the overall feeling is one of sadness.

Although very low key Last Night At The Lobster is a haunting and unforgettable glimpse into the lives of a group of service industry workers who are facing the reality of job change or loss. I read this book in pretty much one sitting and was totally absorbed. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Dec 17, 2016 |
I didn't know what to expect from this little novel but it was a pleasant suprise. A sensitive and thoughtful book about loss and how even the end of a crap job can mess with your dignity. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Beautifully written character study. O'Nan isn't always my cup of tea, but I liked this one. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
I am a fan of Stewart O’Nan ever since Snow Angels and The Names of the Dead, but somehow his releases have snuck under my radar and I missed them. Of course, the good side of that is that I still have several of his books to read. I caught up with Last Night at the Lobster thanks to a great article suggesting good books to read to understand white working class voters more. Coming from a white working class background in the rural Midwest, the stereotype seems unreal to me. I don’t know people like that. But I do know people like those you find in O’Nan’s work, people who work hard, do not get ahead, but keep doing what they are supposed to do, no matter how boring, alienating and unsatisfying it is, because it is the thing to do.

Manny is the manager of a typical Red Lobster in New England. He is punctilious in doing his job, following his checklists with care, always being loyal to a company who is not loyal in return. Indeed, after all these years working his way up to manager, the company has decided to shut down the restaurant despite its relatively good performance. He gets to take four of his workers with him to another restaurant, an Olive Garden, where he will be an assistant manager.

Since it is the last day, a lot of people who won’t be moving on don’t show up, but some do, many out of loyalty to Manny. The novel really is the story of this last shift, the hassles with customers, the care for old, loyal customers, the inter-staff jealousies and conflicts, the sorrow of ending what has been a family, dysfunctional as can be, but a family, for Manny.

It is also the last day he will be seeing the server whom he loves. They had an affair, but both have obligations and both are people who do the right thing. The right thing can by a tyranny at times.

Stewart O’Nan made a restaurant shift suspenseful and fascinating, adding drama to making cheddar biscuits and salting a sidewalk. He showed the tenderness of friendship and the frustrated anger of not being seen, of being disrespected. This book is humane, kind and so full of love for those people who do the work, day in and day out, work that is viewed with contempt by many who do not value work if it is not well-paid. O’Nan sees people that many Americans only look at.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/last-night-at-the-lobster-by-stewart-onan/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Aug 28, 2016 |
It's just a few days before Christmas, but there's no holiday cheer at the Red Lobster restaurant in New Britain, Connecticut. The corporate overlords have decided to close down the underperforming eatery, and it's left to Manny to make sure his rapidly dwindling staff keeps up standards on this last day of operations. To make matters worse, a snowstorm is moving in, making travel hazardous and giving both staff and customers even less incentive to go above and beyond.

O'Nan has written a book that is almost claustrophobic in its deceptive simplicity, with the entire narrative other than one scene set within the restaurant's walls. The manger, Manny, is imbued with a sad, quiet dignity that is complicated by his hopeless romantic entanglement with one of his employees. Most of his staff has already checked out mentally, but Manny can't keep himself from doing everything by the book and giving the few customers who show up a quality dining experience. He's anxious that everyone should walk away from this last night at the Lobster with good memories, an impossible task under the circumstances but noble even in its impossibility.

On a more superficial note, the glimpse "behind the curtain" of how a chain restaurant operates was also fascinating to me. I cringed in sympathetic horror as Manny and his staff tried to cope with a pint-sized terrorist, an unexpected large office party, and the elderly lunchtime regular who has no idea that his daily refuge is being yanked out from beneath his feet. ( )
1 vote rosalita | Jun 12, 2016 |
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All the vatos and their abuelitas All the vatos carrying a lunch pail All the vatos looking at her photo All the vatos sure that no one sees them All the vatos never in a poem - Luis Alberto Urrea
For my brother John and everyone who works the shifts nobody wants
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Mall traffic on a gray winter's day, stalled. Midmorning and the streetlights are still on, weakly. Scattered flakes drift down like ash, but for now the roads are dry.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143114425, Paperback)

The Red Lobster perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall hasn?t been making its numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift with a near-mutinous staff. All the while, he?s wondering how to handle the waitress he?s still in love with, what to do about his pregnant girlfriend, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

Stewart O?Nan has been called ?the bard of the working class,? and Last Night at the Lobster is one of his most acclaimed works to date.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Managing a failed seafood restaurant in a run-down New England mall just before Christmas, Manny DeLeon coordinates a challenging final shift of mutinous staff members, an effort that is complicated by his love for a waitress, a pregnant girlfriend, and an elusive holiday gift.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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