I am almost done with Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan, but I have to review it now in case I don’t have time later.
This book surprised me with its force, not a smashing force that bowls you over, but an slow-moving force that refuses to budge under your own expectations. I expect that working at a Red Lobster is not exciting. O’Nan does not make this life exciting, but he gives it the depth that a casual diner would never think to give it. Manny, the manager of a Red Lobster, in his thirties, doing everyone else’s job and being positive about it, hardly seems like the stuff of literary novels. Nothing extraordinary happens to him or anyone else. It is a quiet story about admirable and not-so-admirable people. There is something in the way O’Nan tells it, in the credit he gives to each character for their actions, that makes you pause.
We’ve all worked jobs with managers like Manny, who have insisted on getting the details right, who take the time to manage their employees, and who constantly get let down by these employees and by the corporations they work for. Pathetic? Admirable? This book leads you to both conclusions. This short novel is well worth the read.