My Brief Thoughts on Stewart O'Nan, Last Night at the Lobster

Title:Last Night at the Lobster
Author: Stewart O'Nan
Publisher/Price: Penguin, $13.00
Date: 2007
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction

146 pages.
Where I got it: I bought it

I was intrigued by Last Night at the Lobster because I've been really into short books lately, and I also am interested in books that depict work cultures.  I've never worked in a restaurant.  Retail store? Yes.  Coffee shop? Yes.  Clerical environment?  Yes.  But never a restaurant.

I found the book to be a kind of charming little slice of life, that also hinted at the larger issues in our current economic world.  It's about a Red Lobster, in the parking lot of a mall that is going out of business.  Manny, the manager, is trying to get his staff to stick with him through their last shift as it starts to snow pretty hard outside, and they all just want to get out of there, knowing that this is the last day. 

I think that O'Nan does a really nice job expressing the way that work becomes life and routine takes over, no matter the job setting.  He perceptively captures the ambivalence in his characters as they react to their changing circumstances, both happy to be free of the days spent in a rotating film reel of crabby customers and check boxes on lists, and angry at being left out in the cold (literally and figuratively).  I wasn't blown away by the book, but I wasn't really expecting to be.  Actually, a little bit like going to a Red Lobster, it wasn't the greatest meal I've ever had, but I got what I expected, and maybe a little more.  It also really made me crave cheddar biscuits, which are pretty darn tasty.


  1. I'm a big fan of Stewart O'Nan--he writes a different book every time he's at bat, which is refreshing in the world of writers who find a niche and stick there. I've not read this one but it's been in my TBR pile for a few years now.

  2. I read this one a few years ago and, like you, enjoyed it but wasn't blown away. The whole idea seems even more applicable in today's economic environment then it did in 2007. Maybe O'Nan is a bit of a visionary in that respect.

  3. @As the Crow Flies and Reads: This was my first O'Nan. Do you have other recommendations? I was interested in Emily, Alone.

    @Jenna: I did think that it was very applicable as well.

  4. Yes, though it was a small book, it was a delicious book. It made me crave cheddar biscuits so much that I went off in search of other books by the same author. Really liked Emily, Alone.

  5. i really, really liked Emily Alone and I have it reviewed somewhere on my blog. I think my favorite of his is A Prayer for the Dying, which is about as close to Greek tragedy as modern fiction gets. He's also successful in pulling off a second person narrative, which is hard to do.

  6. @ Deb Nance: I'm definitely going to try Emily, Alone I think. I didn't like Last Night at the Lobster as much as I thought I would, but I'm still intrigued and want to try more.

    @ As the Crowe: Second person is definitely tricky. Sounds interesting.


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