Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 42: Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O'Nan

This was my book club’s latest pick. I read it in one sitting. It’s a quick read – it feels almost like a music video that was shot in one continuous take. It’s a fun book, yet it’s steeped in a bleak mood. The story revolves around Manny DeLeon, who is a manager at a New England Red Lobster that is about to close its doors permanently. Manny, and a few other of his staff, are headed the next day to The Olive Garden. On this last night at the “Lobster”, Manny tries to keep the restaurant’s final shift running smoothly, despite a blizzard and some complex feelings that are haunting him. Manny is expecting a child with his girlfriend Deena, but we learn that he was once seriously involved with another employee, Jacquie, who he cannot get over. He wrestles with his dwindling time with Jacquie, wondering what to say to her to convey his feelings. Meanwhile, there is a varying degree of drama emanating from every aspect of the restaurant: people getting stuck in the parking lot because it hasn’t been plowed, bratty children trashing the place, an angry employee taking off early but only after he has slashed the other employees’ coats. Manny weathers all of this beautifully, and it quickly becomes apparent that he is a great manager. More than that, he’s just a good guy. It’s impossible not to like him. The characters in the book are so realistically depicted, that they are truly entertaining. The appeal of the characters coupled with the frantic stress that comes with the holiday season creates a great read. Perfect book for this time of year.

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