Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A rueful mood piece....O'Nan hews to a neglected literary tradition by focusing his sympathetic attention on people with few options....Very low-key, but haunting and quietly provocative." Kirkus Reviews
"This slice-of-life novel is funny, poignant, and exquisitely rendered. Strongly recommended." Library Journal
"[A] densely packed 146 pages with few wasted words. It's O'Nan at his most concentrated....Last Night at the Lobster doesn't have Dickens' warm and fuzzy ending, but it is a paean to those who do their job and do it well..." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Last Night at the Lobster makes beautiful sense in the span of O'Nan's writing life: It's a Zen koan of a book Manny's life in all its integrity echoing out across a wintry mall in a Rust Belt American town." The Los Angeles Times
"The characters populating O'Nan's restaurant never leap off the page, and by the book's end, no great strides have been made, no pivotal issues resolved." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"O'Nan's empathy for his characters is one of his great gifts as a novelist, and it is an impressive achievement that Manny's misplaced affection for Red Lobster is not risible, but tragic." The New York Times Book Review
"[C]oncise, unsettling, sometimes funny....Strong fiction such as this offers not only diversion and entertainment but also the opportunity to experience life as another human being. To read Last Night at the Lobster is to take an enlightening walk in the shoes of a different kind of hero." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Stewart O'Nan excels at bringing the reader into the skin of his characters....In lesser hands, Last Night at the Lobster...would be mundane; instead, this bittersweet story sings." Denver Post
O'Nan has crafted a frank and funny yet emotionally resonant tale set within a vivid workaday world seldom seen in contemporary fiction. This work presents a poignant yet redemptive look at what a man does when he discovers that his best might not be good enough.
About the Author
Stewart O'Nan is the author of twelve previous novels, including Songs for the Missing, A Prayer for the Dying, and Snow Angels. In Faithful, he and Stephen King chronicled the 2004 Boston Red Sox. He was born, raised, and lives in Pittsburgh with his family.