rating: 4 of 5 stars
Last Night at the Lobster is Stewart O’Nan’s eleventh novel, but the first of his that I’ve read. We recently selected it as a book club read since it takes place in New England in the winter…and we just happen to be living in New England and it’s the middle of winter. Last Night at the Lobster is a simple, charming story about the final night of business for a New Britain, Connecticut Red Lobster. This particular Red Lobster is located in the parking lot of a mall just off the interstate. Lobster big-wigs have decided that this particular Lobster is not meeting expectations and should be closed. The restaurant’s manager Manny DeLeon and his bare-bones crew show up for the final day of work at the Red Lobster. It is a few days before Christmas, a day that is usually busy due to all of the shoppers at the mall. However, on this particular December day, a huge snow storm blows through town.
The novel is a minute by minute account of the last day and night at the Red Lobster. It gives a realistic glimpse into a day in the life of hard-working folks in middle America. I have only eaten at a Red Lobster once (there really aren’t any in the greater Boston area…we have plenty of seafood restaurants without them!) and have never worked at a restaurant but have always been curious about behind the scenes “dirt”. The interactions of the staff at the Lobster is similar to the dynamics between co-workers at any job that I’ve worked at. There are tensions between some and more developed relationships between others. Manny’s ex-girlfriend Jaqui works at the Lobster and Manny still moons over her even though they’ve both moved on to new relationships.
At just over 140 pages Last Night at the Lobster is a short yet worthwhile read. At its heart, the book is about the trying to get by in America and striving to make yourselves a better future even while you have one foot stuck in the past. Manny finds himself asking questions such as: why are they closing my Red Lobster? What went wrong? Where did my relationship with Jaqui go wrong? What will my crew do for work now that the Lobster will be closed? O’Nan treats his characters with respect, he doesn’t make the reader look down on them.
In my opinion, Last Night at the Lobster is the perfect book to curl up with while you are stranded inside during a winter storm. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or wondered what it is like to work in one, this book is a great way to get a peek inside the day in the life of a restaurant crew.
Looking for something to munch on while you read or discuss Last Night at the Lobster. How about some Cheddar Bay Biscuits, find the copycat recipe for the “famous” Red Lobster biscuits in my post here.