2008: 114. Last Night at the Lobster

“Mall traffic on a gray winter’s day, stalled.  Midmorning and the streetlights are still on, weakly. Scattered flakes drift down like ash, but for now the roads are dry.”

Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart O’Nan

This is a small novel - at 146 pages it’s more of a novella - but it is not slight one.  It tells the story of the last night at a Red Lobster that is about to be closed for good, right before the Christmas holidays.  The manager, Manny, is our protagonist, trying to do his best on his last night in charge, as a snow storm builds and his disgruntled staff keeps causing problems (he is going to go work as an assistant manager at a nearby Olive Garden, and he’s only taking a few of the staff with him, and the others are pissed - half don’t even show up for the last day), and the night drifts on.  The novel captures Manny’s nostalgia and sadness as he says good-bye to the place where he spent the last ten years of his life.  Nan made me appreciate the hard work that goes into making a place like the Red Lobster run, and dignifies the people who work there, such that even an anti-development/crapopolis snob like myself feels a twinge of sadness that the restaurant is closing (as much as I generally feel that corporate chain restaurants like this are just about the epitome of what is banal about America).  Wrapped up in the last day blues is the end of Manny’s relationship with a co-worker, the approaching Christmas holiday, and his wondering about whether this is in fact all there is to life.  And yet, there is a sense of hope as well - Manny is clearly good at what he does, and you get the sense that he’ll make a success of himself at the Olive Garden as well.  Gosh, for a slim novel about a not very important topic, there is a hell of a lot going on.  I’d never read Nan before (well, not his fiction - I’ve actually read his book about the Hartford Circus fire twice, and really enjoyed it), but I plan to read more.

Date/Place Completed: 8/28/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017