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#71 ~ Last Night at the Lobster

Cover of Last Night at the Lobster

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novella. I actually can’t recall the last one I read. Stewart O’Nan certainly breathes life back into this genre for me with Last Night at the Lobster, the story of Manny, a New England Red Lobster manager coming to terms with the closing of his restaurant and the difficulty he has to comes to terms with any kind of closure in his life.

Manny is a model employee. He is somewhat of a perfectionist at work, strictly following company policy despite the fact that the current work day is the last his restaurant will be open. Those times during the day that he does bend policy, such as comping lunch for the staff who comes to work on that day, his conscience niggles at him afterwards. Although there is conflict in the workplace, he is a well liked as a manager even by those he isn’t taking with him to the Olive Garden in a nearby town. In fact, he’s equally shocked that those he isn’t taking with him showed up on that blizzard depressed day as he is by those promised continued work who did not.

Manny expends most of his energy over-analyzing the recent loses in his life – his beloved abuela, his position at the Red Lobster, and his somewhat illicit affair with Jackie, one of his employees. Despite the fact that he has Deena, a woman pregnant with his child, waiting for him to celebrate the holidays, he can’t help but think about Jackie and why on earth she showed up for the last day of work. He tries as best as he can to reconcile or at least find peace with his romantic and professional future, but his thoughts about the past are falling upon him as heavily as the snow.

Manny has a “table touch” approach to life. He glosses over issues that arise by making promises that are ultimately meaningless in order to bring about resolution. This might work well for him as a restaurant manager, but it underscores an emptiness he brings into his relationships with others. This is made most evident as he thinks rather allusively throughout the day about the pivotal moment in his relationship with Jackie. It is here that she made her choice to stop seeing him romantically. He sees only what her choice cost him, not what her choice cost her or why she made that decision in the first place.

I really enjoyed getting to know Manny through his obsessive thoughts and his interactions with his employees and patrons. There were times where I wished that I could have reached in and told him to completely pay attention to himself and what goes on around him. He already feels as though he does and that is what really makes him come to life for me. He tries his best and when that’s not good enough, he keeps trying. And this is what makes him a good manager, even on the last night at the Lobster.

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9 Comments

  • At 2008.05.23 14:37, kegsoccer said:

    Hmm sounds good. I wonder if it will be better than my yet-to-be-read “Songs of the Missing”.

    • At 2008.05.23 14:49, Literate Housewife said:

      I read this in anticipation of reading Songs of the Missing. Are you part of the First Look Book Club, too?

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      • At 2008.05.23 15:25, kegsoccer said:

        Indeed I am, although only recently. “songs” is the first book I’m getting through them,

        • At 2008.05.23 15:39, Literate Housewife said:

          I was part of the first First Look club. We read The Monsters of Templeton and it was marvelous! I hope that this book will be of the same caliber. If Last Night at the Lobster is any indication, it should be. I really liked the letter he wrote to be sent out with the books. He seems like an interesting person himself.

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          • At 2008.05.25 17:02, lisamm said:

            Hi Jennifer, I’m glad you liked it!! Songs feels completely different- to me it doesn’t even seem like the same author wrote both books. It’s good ,but there are just no similarities at all, IMO.

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            • […] the third novel I have read as part of Barnes and Noble’s First Look Book Club, I picked up Last Night at the Lobster after Lisa from Books on the Brain suggested it.  I am thankful to have now read both, because I […]

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                • At 2008.10.19 20:59, Lisa said:

                  I tagged your review of this book on my blog. You can find it here:

                  http://southerngal-lisa.blogspot.com/2008/10/book-review-last-night-at-lobster.html

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                  • At 2012.01.20 01:01, #388 ~ The Odds said:

                    […] Last Night at the Lobster remains my favorite O’Nan novel. It may always be because it was my first. Unlike Songs for the Missing, The Odds evoked the same emotion. It left me amazed that I would find a story about a common occurrence and feel as though the outcome very much was about me. The Odds is classic O’Nan. Within an intimate situation fraught with the stress of imminent loss, he shines a light on a small spot on the map and makes it feel universal. The more O’Nan I read, the more I seriously consider making appreciating his work a requirement for friendship. Filed Under: book review, fiction, male author Tagged With: Canada, divorce, gambling, Heart, marriage, Niagra Falls var blogurl="http://literatehousewife.com"; var needemail="1"; var nowurl="8098"; var md5 = "c8139b5032f1075a8e048c96a135d55c"; […]

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