Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Last Night At The Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
Published January 2007 by Penguin Group
Source: bought it - not sure where or when

Publisher's Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:
My kids have all worked in restaurants but it was Miss H's experience working at an Applebee's that immediately connected  me to this book. From rolling silverware to food prep, from line work to no-show employees, from bad tips to unexpected big parties, poorly behaved children, and conflicts between employees, it's all included in this novella. Sound ordinary? Not in O'Nan's skilled hands.

Stewart O'Nan has a way of crawling into the routine lives of the struggling masses and unearthing the pieces of them that speak to readers.
"Mall traffic on a gray winter's day, stalled."
The opening line here fairly sums up Manny's life. Thirty-five years old and he has spent nearly all of his adult life working at the Red Lobster which has now been arbitrarily shut down. As a blizzard bears down them, Manny struggles to deal with betrayal, disappointment, and unrequited love while trying to treat the day as he would any other day. Why does he care so much about a job that the public values so little, which has him kowtowing to rude people, cleaning up vomit and bathrooms, and trying to placate a dysfunctional family of employees? Is it because Manny is one of the good guys (not withstanding the affair he had with a coworker who has a boyfriend)? Or is it because Manny knows that this is as close as he will ever get to the American dream?

From the beginning, as Manny pulls into the parking lot in "a white shitbox of a Buick, the kind a grandmother might have" to Manny's farewells to those who have been loyal to him and those he has loved, this is the story of everyman.

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