What could be worse than losing your job right before Christmas? How about knowing you're losing your job and then having to suck it up and work one last night serving holiday shoppers and partygoers as they celebrate what should be a joyous time of year.
That's the dilemma facing Red Lobster manager Manny as he must try to remain positive for the employees in Last Night at the Lobster (Viking Penguin, 146 pages, $19.95) by Stewart O’Nan...
Here's a review from the Associated Press:
By SARA ROSE
An aging Red Lobster restaurant outside a decaying mall in working-class New Britain, Conn., has been slated for closure by its parent company. Its numbers have fallen and it’s not worth the expense to keep it open. It’s Dec. 20 and all but five of the staff will be left without jobs.
Stewart O’Nan’s latest novel, Last Night at the Lobster, is a short, real-time tour through an unlikely place with an unlikely cast of characters. Unlikely, not because the location is strange or the characters outlandish, but because both are so incredibly normal.
O’Nan, who favors tales of the working class, takes us inside an average American restaurant to a place rarely seen by the public. And for those of us who have worked in restaurants, we know that he has hit the environment and characters spot-on. Nothing is sensationalized, nothing is hyperbolized, everything is as it is.
O’Nan’s is a quiet story that rings with melancholy and is content to relate a simple tale of real people.
Manny DeLeon is the conscientious, committed manager of the Red Lobster — his Red Lobster. He opens and closes every day, he hired most of the staff, and knows the ins and outs of every position. He changes the deep fryer oil, mops the floor, seats the guests, negotiates squabbles, hands out the paychecks and can’t imagine himself doing anything else. He finds comfort in his staff and the routines of his job and, on this last day of operation, is not quite ready to let them go.
After a hectic lunch service complete with an office party, a hyperactive kid who vomits on the floor and demanding mothers, Manny envisions the last night at his Red Lobster as restaurant perfection: a happy kitchen, happy servers and a room full of happy customers. Instead, he gets a half-staffed kitchen, servers who just want to go home, a thieving bartender, a blizzard and three geriatric customers.
As they watch storm reports on TV, Manny is reluctant to close up shop. Closing means losing pride and his place and what is most important, it means losing Jacquie, the waitress he still loves.
But he does close, 40 minutes early, and lets Roz, the career waitress, Ty, the gruff chef, Jacquie and the others go. With diamond earrings in his pocket, the Christmas gift that will solve all the problems with his pregnant girlfriend, Manny throws in the towel.
And that’s the story. An honest story of how easy it is to fall into the trap of seeing one’s ‘‘own fate in every little thing’’ and a portrait of a man trying not to give up.