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Last Night at the Lobster
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Last Night at the Lobster

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3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  5,989 ratings  ·  1,292 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 ...more
Paperback, 146 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Maya
Absolutely pitch-perfect.

I don't know if everyone can appreciate exactly why this book is so perfect, but what O'Nan has done in capturing the mood of a crew of food service workers just as their workplace is about to shuts its doors forever is remarkable.

In any service environment, a peculiar culture builds up among the employees, but in food service that culture knits itself in a very specific way. It's all about the money: how the servers relate to the kitchen staff, bar staff, and managers
...more
Kirk
Reading this book I was reminded of Joe Queenan's Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon (1999), an unfunny book of tossed-off "humor" pieces about the irrevocable cheesiness of American culture. In an essay called "Slouching toward Red Lobster" (see what I mean by "unfunny"?), Queenan describes the chain as a place for people who think they're too good for Roy Roger's. That about sums up his point: I'm better than other people, and I get to write a book about it!

What I loved about LAST N
...more
Richard
Last Night at the Lobster owes what little effectiveness it has more to its three conceits than to skill or insight. First, it's narrated in the present tense, for a sense of immediacy. Second, it's set entirely in environments (a chain restaurant and a shopping mall) that are comforting by design. Third, the story takes place during a snow storm, for a sense of surreality and semi-isolation. O'Nan does little else to generate the mood on which the novel depends; in particular he provides few of ...more
Marcus
Picked this one up for two reasons:

a.) the cover and size grabbed my attention
b.) it's set around the holidays and I needed a good Christmas book to read.

O'Nan is a really good writer, no doubt about it. He's got a good voice. He's very descriptive and does a great job of putting you in the setting.

This book, however, was greatly disappointing. It had been lauded by folks like the NPR critics, but I'm not sure why. Yes, he painted a stark and realistic portrait of what it's like to work in a res
...more
Karl Krekeler
Feb 19, 2008 Karl Krekeler rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karl by: NPR
Wow.

Stewart O'Nan made the most mundane thing (a story about the last day at a Red Lobster) and made it into a beautiful, moving story. In just a short time (less than 150 pages), he painted characters that I hope I can meet again someday to see how their new lives work out.

This was an interesting project. He basically wrote a story backwards. This is a story about an ending, with the hope of a new beginning.

I learned about this book on NPR, and learned about Stewart O'Nan by reading Faithful, a
...more
Randall Yelverton
So much to admire in this book, but not really enjoyable. O'Nan nails the rhythms and speech of restaurant staff. The Lobster of the book is very real and its staff wholly believable. And yet, the book is a bit of a slog. Maybe if O'Nan had stripped out the run of the mill love affair and focused merely on the work details the book would have been more compelling. The love story is weak as compared to the drama of seating, serving, and satisfying customers which can provide fascinating, anxious ...more
Matt
Note: Appeared in the Feb. 28 CVN "On the Bookshelf"

“I love this cover,” said Christie Boyd at the Feb. 20 meeting of the Coastal View Book Club. “It’s so bleak!” The wonderfully illustrative, utterly bleak image on the cover of Stewart O’Nan’s “Last Night at the Lobster,” shows a solitary man trudging through a grayish, snow-swept parking lot for the final time. One can, and does, accurately judge this book by its cover.

Manny DeLeon, the manager of a Red Lobster in New England, is an employee w
...more
Matt
Because I live in my own little world inside my head, complete with pugs dressed as butlers and rainbows made of Laffy Taffy, it was a long time before I became aware of Stewart O’Nan. Partially, I suppose, this is due to the fact that O’Nan’s books do not draw undue attention to themselves. He is not an elegant prose stylist; he does not construct elaborate plots that bend time and space and then loop back again; and he does not fetishize the typical professions found in most novels/television ...more
Cynthia
What a short but outstanding book. If you have ever worked in the corporate restaurant business (I did my time at Chi-Chi's Mexican Restaurant), the atmosphere and people will ring especially true. The story concerns the last day/night of a Red Lobster restaurant. The Darden Corporate office has decided to close this branch and has demoted the loyal, hardworking manager to a position at the Olive Garden. The no-show workers, lifers in the restaurant business, pothead kitchen staff, waitresses sl ...more
Ric
During a cold winter’s night, where the snow was coming down an inch a minute outside my cottage in Michigan, I opened Stewart O'Nan's novella (146 pages) "Last Night at the Lobster". It was three days before Christmas and I spent the night with a cast of characters that are quite simply drawn from everyday life. "Last Night at the Lobster" is a deeply moving novel about how we work and how we find love. Anyone who has worked in retail or a restaurant will identify. It is also a novel on how we ...more
Jeanette
This little gem I read in one sitting on a blizzard January night near Chicago. It cannot be other than a 5 for the perfect voice of work life that O'Nan accomplished. An unknown author to me, this book was found sitting on the NEW shelf as I came in from -2 temperatures. I paused, just standing there, to warm up and let my returns unfreeze in their bag. Not to get books but to bring them back. But this single one sang out to me for some reason. I read no reviews, nor had seen any preview traile ...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook narrated by Jonathan Davis
3.5***

Five days before Christmas, Manny DeLeon arrives for his last day as manager of the Red Lobster. Corporate has sent word down that the under-performing store, near a highway and separated from a run-down mall but an expanse of parking lot, is to be closed. If their last day wasn’t bad enough, a blizzard is brewing. Manny must convince his nearly mutinous staff to excel at their jobs for just one more shift, serving the patrons as if their jobs and the re
...more
Barbara
I have enjoyed O'Nan's writing with his portrayals of everyday people and their lives. However, I toyed with the idea of giving this book only a 2 star rating. There are numerous reasons for this. I could not summon up any enthusiasm for the story. Although this is a slim offering, it seemed to drag on and barely reached its destination.There was often a lack of clarity about the relationships of the people involved and even who they were.

The narrative is predominantly about Manny, the manager o
...more
Matt
The first book I read by Stewart O'Nan was "The Circus Fire," about the tragic fire at a Ringling Brother big top in Hartford, CT, during the 1940s. I've read a lot of books about fire, an obsession I've been cultivating since I first watched a fire engine roar down the street when I was two years old, and this was a good one. It was propulsive fiction. I read the entire thing flying home from Paris, ignoring the inflight meal (this was back in the days when they had inflight meals; now you just ...more
El
Manny is manager of a Red Lobster restaurant in New York, though for some reason his particular store is closing. This story involves the final day and night of the Red Lobster which happens to fall in the middle of a blizzard. There is the bare minimum of customers, and even a barer minimum of employees who bothered to show up. Manny works especially hard, battling mutinous employees who were not asked to move with him to an Olive Garden after the Lobster is closed, battling hyper mothers with ...more
Kathryn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James
Is that all there is?

I find this book comforting, yet hollow.

I love little books. I enjoy it when books are pamphlets and not tomes. I think most authors and writers should be more concise.

But perhaps it turns out that I mean the books should be denser.

I don’t mind long books, if they are full of substance.

This book was thankfully short, but wholly unrewarding. The prose, plot, and characters were dull. The setting, of a mass retail chain’s last day I find comforting, as I experienced a similar
...more
Liz
Jan 31, 2008 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no church book clubs--too many F-bombs...
Recommended to Liz by: Jeanette West
I have to put out a disclaimer that the plot is not the best crafted, or that there's even much of any kind of story line. The whole book is centered around one long day reminiscent of Groundhog Day; it feels like that same kind of stuck-in-a-rut hopelessness--you mostly just want it to end (although I think that may be intended). The blue collar-esque manager (Manny) of the Red Lobster is trying to survive the last working day, crappy day, before the struggling branch closes. However, the writi ...more
Dan
I like O'Nan and I liked this book. One gets the sense he found a Red Lobster that was closing, sat there throughout the last day and recorded what happened. If you've ever worked a job in food service, or any sort of close customer contact job you will recognize the character types in this book.

Truth be told this is the best book taking place in a Red Lobster I've ever read (and likely the only one). Cheap jokes aside, I am looking forward to picking up another O'Nan in the near future. Luckil
...more
Chris
This novella packs a punch, especially to those of us who worked on the front line of restaurants. It's the last day and evening of the closing of a Red Lobster restaurant and a snowstorm begins as Manny, the manager, arrives for his last day of work, four days before Christmas. That slow snow is an indicator of the slow day that is filled with lunchtime with holiday eaters, a bratty kid, and a large part of 12 (?) who just show up at the height of lunch without reservations and expect to sit an ...more
Larry Buhl
I read this several years ago and it has stuck with me. One of my favorite books of the last four years. Let me see if I can explain why...

It felt real. By squeezing all of the action - and a lot of it is ordinary non-action - into one significant day in the life of a restaurant manager, we see the mechanics of his job, the day to day drudgery, the loss he's about to experience and the loss of ten years of his life toiling in this place. Not a lot happens in the book, but that's not the point. N
...more
Matthew
i read this book because of two things: one, lee's ecstatic review and two, the first page, which i immediately liked when i scoped it on amazon. love the premise. loved the details, descriptions, setting. and yet i couldn't help feeling like it was a bit too realistic... i know that's weird to say and really it's not quite what i mean, just that despite the great red lobster details and pitch perfect characterizations (the lifer waitress is named roz, for pete's sake) at times it seemed a bit T ...more
Anita Dalton
In so many novels of the working class, there seems to be a need for redemption. The small man rising against the machine, the worker getting his own back. It’s like the world of the working man needs to have some intense catharsis, rising above, finding the love of a good woman worth more than being with the woman you really love. In such novels, Manny would have burned down the Red Lobster, or done something to make corporate sorry for discounting his hard work. He would have fallen magically ...more
Nette
I read this while waiting for mosaic grout to dry, that's how short it was (143 pages). Once I started, I was hooked. It's about the final night of service at a Red Lobster in some cold, crappy part of the country (upstate New York? Boston?). It reminded me of when I worked on a project at TRW that was abruptly cancelled -- shutting down, boxing up, saying goodbye, the feeling of disappointment and frustration with The Powers That Be who make stupid decisions. At least we didn't have to deal wit ...more
Benjamin
When I got near the end, I started slowing down because I didn't want it to be over... read a page, do the dishes, read a page, take out the trash. This book is partly about those kinds of jobs, those places where manager means the guy who has to "eat shit sandwiches" and fill in for all the people who quit or just don't show and be there first and stay til the end and get all the grief from corporate and from the customers and from the workers who don't have "loyalty."

O'Nan did some serious re
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 12, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Gerri Leen
It would be easy to slight this novel--novella really; I read its 146 pages in less than two hours. The style was described as spare in reviews and its emotions are understated and it deals with ordinary people on an ordinary day where nothing extraordinary happens. It's four shopping days before Christmas and a Red Lobster restaurant at a New England mall is closing. At the start of the novel its manager, Manny DeLeon, is opening up for the last shift. Through the day he deals with difficult cu ...more
Heather
That's what I used to say, what I used to be required to say, at least 20 times a day as condition of my employment. For 10 years, from 1987 to 1997, I worked in the frustrating, mystifying world of corporate restaurants. One day, at the beginning of my senior year in high school, my family went to the local Chi-Chi's Mexican Restaurant for lunch. My dad had been pestering me to get a job for a few months, and I had successfully put him off. This time, though, I was trapped-if I wanted to eat, I ...more
Sue
Stewart O’Nan is a novelist of the everyday, and nothing is more everyday in modern life than a chain restaurant. This novel, set on the last day of business of a Red Lobster restaurant, tells the story of Manny DeLeon, who has learned that corporate headquarters has decided to close the restaurant that he manages. (Isn’t it interesting that headquarters, or “corporate” can decided something – but no human being is actually visible?) But Manny is more than a manager; he thinks of this Red Lobste ...more
Andrei Alupului
As others have stated, this book is completely on point about the restaurant/store experience. Setting it in a blizzard was a nice touch, it imbues the whole book with a sort of ephemeral beauty that stems from the transformation of these mall parking lots into surreal environments, not that they necessarily needed the help, I guess. herf herf.

Anyway, all of the personal stuff in relation to the restaurant rings true, too. I guess I felt like the whole relationship subplot weakened the book as a
...more
James
In Last Night at the Lobster, O'nan explores the attachments we create to our surroundings, the places we come to call our own, the people we love and think we love. The fullness of these emotions are rendered in the utter realness of the protagonist, Manny, a working class thirty-something whose life is completely entangled with the Red Lobster he has managed for over ten years. During this period Manny has come to believe this particular Red Lobster is his own, even though Red Lobsters are not ...more
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri ...more
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