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Last Night at the Lobster

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3.54  ·  Rating details ·  7,905 Ratings  ·  1,551 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 November 1st 2007)
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Maya
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-2008
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
Glenn Sumi
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Eating at the humble Red Lobster won’t be quite the same after reading this bittersweet ode to the service industry.

It’s a grey, snowy Saturday a week or so before Christmas, and the Red Lobster near a rundown New England mall is about to close down – for good. Sales just aren’t up to scratch, and all the staff has been let go, except for five, who are being offered jobs at an Olive Garden a few towns over.

In fact, today is the restaurant’s final day, and it’s up to hard-working manager Manny De
...more
Tooter
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this little jewel of a book. Stewart O’Nan manages to write a 160 page book about the employees at a Red Lobster during the span of their last working day and make it intriguing. I kept waiting for something…..anything to happen and yet when it didn’t, that was OK. Yep, he's that good.
Connie
Manny De Leon is spending a double shift working his last day as the manager of a Red Lobster. The bosses at the corporate headquarters have decided to close this older restaurant. Lacking the holiday spirit, the bosses picked December 20th as the last day of operation.

The book follows Manny, hour by hour, in the restaurant while a blizzard dumps snow on the parking lot outside. Some of his crew show up in spite of the weather because they have a sense of loyalty toward Manny. Manny is kind and
...more
Kirk
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Richard
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeanette
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Marcus
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Emily M
Set in a Red Lobster in western Connecticut the night before the franchise is scheduled to close for good, I knew from the description that this book would be right up my alley. Red Lobster! Connecticut! The drudgery of working in the service industry! Check, check, check. The only thing that could make this book better is a basket of cheddar bay biscuits. Sigh.

This book is a real gem -- a true sit-down-and-read-cover-to-cover kind of novel. And I'm not just saying that because it's short... Ste
...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
Cynthia
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Darlene
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With every Stewart O'Nan novel I read, he increasingly secures a place on my favorite authors list. In this thin volume, "Last Night at the Lobster", the scene is set in a 'has seen better days' New England town during a blizzard in the days before Christmas. The story takes place in a Red Lobster restaurant on its last day open for business. The restaurant is a corporate owned one and is underperforming and so will be closed at the end of the business day. Manny is the manager of this Red Lobs ...more
Lynn
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread, book-group
2/21/16. Listened to the audiobook before my book group met. Loved it all over again.

I love a book that lets me see into a world I don't know. I've never worked in a restaurant, but I've felt responsibility to do the right thing through the bitter end of a job. Manny and team's struggles on the last night of a Red Lobster are true to life. I loved this little book.
Ric
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
James
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Anna
Manny DeLeon found a second chance as a manager of a Red Lobster in Connecticut. He takes great pride in his restaurant, and does his job with great care and commitment. Unfortunately for Manny, corporate has informed him they are closing his Red Lobster few days before Christmas. Manny will be transferred to an Olive Garden, though he has been demoted to Assistant Manager. A few of his staff will also transfer, but others are not so lucky. Manny wants to end with a great service, but a blizzard ...more
Sandi
I'd forgotten how much I love this book. It's set in my hometown, and the author created a main character who captures so much of what is great about Hard Hittin New Britain!
Kathryn
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Larry Buhl
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Liz
Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
El
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Ehlers
This novel takes place from the point of view of a Red Lobster manager, on the last night the restaurant is open before it shuts down permanently.

As far as I'm concerned, this book had it all: a main character you felt you really got to know, an interesting story, vivid supporting characters, and a great setting--the entire novel takes place in and around the Red Lobster. You really feel like you're there. Anyone who knows me will tell you I love fiction with a really small setting (a movie lik
...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
Dan
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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