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Last Night at the Lobster

Last Night at the Lobster

3.4 29
by Stewart O'Nan

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A frank and funny yet emotionally resonant tale set within a vivid work day world

Look out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on april 26, 2016

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


A frank and funny yet emotionally resonant tale set within a vivid work day world

Look out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on april 26, 2016

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 find the present that will make everything better.

Stewart O'Nan has been called "the bard of the working class," and Last Night at the Lobster is one of his most acclaimed works.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

A Bittersweet Tale of Work and Love from One of "America's Best Young Novelists.

Nathaniel Rich
O'Nan's empathy for his characters is one of his great gifts as a novelist, and it is an impressive achievement that Manny's misplaced affection for Red Lobster is not risible, but tragic. There is a powerful dignity to Manny's proud desire to do hard, productive work and contribute something of value to the people with whom he lives and toils. But O'Nan is also a bitter realist. So when the Lobster closes, Manny doesn't re-examine his relationship with Deena or ponder a new, more fulfilling career. He goes to work at Olive Garden.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
The scope and emotional range of this poignant story are surprisingly narrow, as though O'Nan locked himself in a narrative box, tied one hand behind his back and then dared himself to make it engaging. The fact that he pulls it off is a testament to his precision and empathy…Full of regret and gentle humor, Last Night at the Lobster serves up the kind of delicate sadness that too often gets ruined by the slimy superiority that masquerades as sympathy for working-class people. It wouldn't take much longer to read this story than to polish off a large helping of hush puppies, but it's a far more nutritious meal.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Set on the last day of business of a Connecticut Red Lobster, this touching novel by the author of Snow Angelsand A Prayer for the Dyingtells the story of Manny DeLeon, a conscientious, committed restaurant manager any national chain would want to keep. Instead, corporate has notified Manny that his-and Manny does think of the restaurant as his-New Britain, Conn., location is not meeting expectations and will close December 20. On top of that, he'll be assigned to a nearby Olive Garden and downgraded to assistant manager. It's a loss he tries to rationalize much as he does the loss of Jacquie, a waitress and the former not-so-secret lover he suspects means more to him than his girlfriend Deena, who is pregnant with his child. On this last night, Manny is committed to a dream of perfection, but no one and nothing seems to share his vision: a blizzard batters the area, customers are sparse, employees don't show up and Manny has a tough time finding a Christmas gift for Deena. Lunch gives way to dinner with hardly anyone stopping to eat, but Manny refuses to close early or give up hope. Small but not slight, the novel is a concise, poignant portrait of a man on the verge of losing himself. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
USA Today
A delightful heartbreaker of a novel . . . Exquisite.
Entertainment Weekly
O'Nan crafts a perfectly observed slice of working- class life.
The Washington Post Book World
A masterful portrait.
Library Journal

O'Nan's tenth novel (after The Good Wife) demonstrates once again why the author is known as the "bard of the working class." It's December 20, closing day for the New Britain, CT, Red Lobster restaurant, abandoned by headquarters owing to mediocre sales. Manager Manny De Leo had to let most of his employees go-only five can transfer with him to the Olive Garden-and is counting on the good will of a few to run the place. As he opens, we hear in intimate detail about routine tasks (changing the oil in the Frialator) and tacky decorations (the shellacked marlin on the wall). Manny will miss it; it's his shop, and he takes pride in it. He'll also miss Jacquie, the waitress with whom he had a brief, intense affair. As snow falls, Manny handles the regulars, Christmas parties, the mall crowd, and his small crew with aplomb, constantly aware of his losses. This slice-of-life novel is funny, poignant, and exquisitely rendered. Strongly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/07.]
—Nancy Fontaine

Kirkus Reviews
A rueful mood piece from prolific, eclectic O'Nan (The Good Wife, 2005, etc.) about the closing of a chain restaurant. On a snowy morning just a few days before Christmas, general manager Manny DeLeon opens the Red Lobster in New Britain, Conn., for the last time. Corporate ownership is closing this branch near a dying mall, and though Manny is moving to the Olive Garden in Bristol (with a demotion to assistant manager), he can take only four people with him. Unsurprisingly, most of the understandably pissed-off, soon-to-be-unemployed workers don't bother to show for the last shift. O'Nan paints a vivid picture of the world of minimum-wage labor, where people have little incentive to be responsible or reliable. Manny is both, scrambling to keep the restaurant running smoothly in the middle of a blizzard, even though it's the last day and no one cares but him. Personally, he's less upright. He doesn't want to marry his pregnant girlfriend Deena and still carries a torch for Jacquie, a waitress who's refused to come to the Olive Garden because their affair is over. There's hardly any plot here, just the frantic rush to serve lunch-O'Nan's depiction of the complex organization of meal preparation and service is the best since Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential-and the long wait through a sparsely populated dinner to shut the place down forever. Customers from hell and surly staff interact in a dance of clashing personalities that would be a marvelous comedy of manners if the overall tone weren't so sad. In his mid-30s, Manny is plagued by regret over Jacquie and not terribly optimistic about his future. O'Nan hews to a neglected literary tradition by focusing his sympathetic attentionon people with few options. He offers no political message, merely the reminder that blue-collar lives are as charged with moral quandaries and professional difficulties as those of their better-dressed, more affluent fellow Americans. Very low-key, but haunting and quietly provocative. Agent: David Gernert/The Gernert Company

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
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File size:
813 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Names of the Dead, The Speed Queen, A World Away, A Prayer for the Dying, Everyday People, and the story collection In the Walled City. In 1996, Granta named him one of America's Best Young Novelists. O'Nan lives with his family in Avon, Connecticut.

Brief Biography

Avon, CT
Date of Birth:
February 4, 1961
Place of Birth:
Pittsburgh, PA
B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, 1983; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1992

Customer Reviews

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Last Night at the Lobster 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
JKtypist More than 1 year ago
This is a riveting book in spite of its relatively mundane subject. O'Nan can find the simplistic notions that create compound to shape the events of our everyday lives and painstakingly draws them out for the readers to absorb and digest. This book, about little more than the last night of a restaurant actually encompasses so much more. A great book.
debbook More than 1 year ago
My review: This is the second O'Nan book I have read, after Snow Angels. Even though Lobster does not have a dramatic plot, it was a beautifully written novella. It is a simple story, the last night of Manny managing a Red Lobster before it closes and he is transferred to work at an Olive Garden. Lots of thing go wrong; staff that doesn't show up, a blizzard, and the loss of an old love, but he is determined to stay open and be responsible. Manny is really the only character that is delved into but the rest of the characters add some flavor. It is difficult to describe but I think this exemplifies what a good writer can do with the most simple of stories. And O'Nan is a great writer. I enjoyed this one and have Songs of the Missing on my tbr list. my rating 4.5/5
MarionMarchetto_author More than 1 year ago
As a native of Connecticut I am familiar with the setting of Last Night at the Lobster. So for me this story also brought me memories of my home state. O'Nan evokes the feelings of 'being there' with his beautiful descriptive passages. I could almost feel the biting wind driving the swirling snow of the early hours of the blizzard. By now you'll know that the story centers around the manager of a chain restaurant that is literally on the verge of closing. Not a glamorous job by any means, however, Manager Manny DeLeon has embraced the position and is a study is corporate loyalty. Not so his employees with whom he must deal on this closing day. The cast of characters is as complex as life itself. The reader is given much to digest in a short space but the facts are succinct and easily understood. There's Eddie the handicapped employee who arrives via van, Ty the Executive Chef, Roz the head waitress, Jacquie who was at one time Manny's lover (and whom he still thinks he loves), and several disgruntled others who will shortly be out of work. The blizzard conditions and lack of customers only deepen the clarity with which we see the behind the scenes areas of a corporate outpost. The story is original, the cast unique, the entire novel a truly wonderful read especially on a snowy day. My only question is: what happens to the lobsters in the tank?
Guest More than 1 year ago
O'Nan nails the food service job with all the usual characters - yet avoids caricatures. You believe every minute. It's just a slow snowy night at the Lobster, yet you'll come back to this perfect story often, and that's my measure of success.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book quickly draws you into the lives of the characters. Easy to relate to every one from hostess to dishwasher. If you have ever worked in the industry you know these are people you have had the pleasure to know. A quick easy read that was over to soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a relationship drama - turn around. If you're looking for some cataclysmic life altering epiphany to occur to the protagonist - step away from the computer. That's not what O'Nan does. He writes about the everyday mundane thoughts and actions of the "every" person. It's not meant to be exciting; it's meant to put you inside someone else's life and head. If that's your thing; read this. If this sounds boring to you; look at another book. I have to be in the right state of mind to read O'Nan. If I want an entertaining and interestingly far-fetched book, I pick up John Irving.
MurielTN More than 1 year ago
Who hasn't been to Red Lobster? This book takes us to one on its last day...it is closing. We meet the people who work there and discover how their lives have intertwined over the years. I could have spent more time with the employees, (some of) the customers, the restaurant and the atmosphere created by the snow storm. But, alas, it was the last night.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story line....Could feel the characters emotions.... EXCESSIVE SWEARING!!!!!
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This book isn't "awful" as far as books go. The writing style is very detailed in the minutiae of running a restaurant, but very subtle in the actual storyline, so many readers might get upset and think, "Nothing happens here!" My real problem with the book overall was that I paid $11.99 for an e-book that was only 94 pages long!!!! So not worth it!
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angela04 More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a book group discussion. I was not impressed. I loved Manny but found the book to be a bit boring. Thank goodness it was short. It is certainly not worth the amount that is being charged for this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Readable if you have nothing better to do.