#71 ~ Last Night at the LobsterMay 22, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 10 Comments
Tags: coping with change, coping with loss, Last Night at the Lobster, loss, New England, novella, Red Lobster, restaurant management, Steward O'Nan
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novella. I actually can’t recall the last one I read. Stewart O’Nan certainly breathes life back into this genre for me with Last Night at the Lobster, the story of Manny, a New England Red Lobster manager coming to terms with the closing of his restaurant and the difficulty he has to comes to terms with any kind of closure in his life.
Manny is a model employee. He is somewhat of a perfectionist at work, strictly following company policy despite the fact that the current work day is the last his restaurant will be open. Those times during the day that he does bend policy, such as comping lunch for the staff who comes to work on that day, his conscience niggles at him afterwards. Although there is conflict in the workplace, he is a well liked as a manager even by those he isn’t taking with him to the Olive Garden in a nearby town. In fact, he’s equally shocked that those he isn’t taking with him showed up on that blizzard depressed day as he is by those promised continued work who did not.
Manny expends most of his energy over-analyzing the recent loses in his life – his beloved abuela, his position at the Red Lobster, and his somewhat illicit affair with Jackie, one of his employees. Despite the fact that he has Deena, a woman pregnant with his child, waiting for him to celebrate the holidays, he can’t help but think about Jackie and why on earth she showed up for the last day of work. He tries as best as he can to reconcile or at least find peace with his romantic and professional future, but his thoughts about the past are falling upon him as heavily as the snow.
Manny has a “table touch” approach to life. He glosses over issues that arise by making promises that are ultimately meaningless in order to bring about resolution. This might work well for him as a restaurant manager, but it underscores an emptiness he brings into his relationships with others. This is made most evident as he thinks rather allusively throughout the day about the pivotal moment in his relationship with Jackie. It is here that she made her choice to stop seeing him romantically. He sees only what her choice cost him, not what her choice cost her or why she made that decision in the first place.
I really enjoyed getting to know Manny through his obsessive thoughts and his interactions with his employees and patrons. There were times where I wished that I could have reached in and told him to completely pay attention to himself and what goes on around him. He already feels as though he does and that is what really makes him come to life for me. He tries his best and when that’s not good enough, he keeps trying. And this is what makes him a good manager, even on the last night at the Lobster.
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