By December 21, 2007 2 Comments Read More →

Last Night at the Lobster

Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster is a book that’s spread like wildfire among my work group. Most everyone I know has also been reading Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs which depicts down-at-heel, small-town life. But Russo’s book is more like a doorstop, whereas this one, at 146 pages, is more like a love letter—I’m just talking size, here. And while it’s slim in size, it is anything but slight.

Last Night at the Lobster takes place in one day at a Red Lobster in New Britain, Connecticut in its last day of operation; it will be closing its doors due to mediocre sales. The manager, Manny DeLeon, takes great pride in his restaurant and his team, and is taking his better workers with him to the Olive Garden. But since so many of his co-workers are losing their jobs, and because there’s a winter storm brewing, Manny’s got a skeleton crew to make it through an unpredictable day.

There is a quiet dignity to Manny, to the reverence and nostalgia that he brings to his every action and decision. For Manny this ordinary day is momentous. So much of his life has played out here among this ragtag bunch who have become like an extended family to him. And then there’s Jacquie, the waitress with whom he had an affair, the one who still haunts his thoughts, even though his girlfriend, Deena, is pregnant with his child.

Reading this book is like looking into a snow globe. The snow swirls, revealing brief glimpses of the lives within, only to be engulfed by the snow once again.

If your group is looking for a slim, thought-provoking book—a little palate cleanser—than I would definitely recommend trying O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster. And to drag out the metaphor—you can make quite a memorable meal by pairing O’Nan’s book with Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. Call it the blue-collar special.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.