Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
Last Night at the Lobster
Allen and Unwin
Stewart O’Nan’s novel is a movingly told, simple tale that inhabits a world somewhere between Lean on Pete and a Dardenne Brothers film.
The first page is dotted with downbeat adjectives culminating in “a bulldozed mound of old snow towers like a dirty iceberg”.
It’s the last night at the Red Lobster eatery and we follow the manager, Manny, who has grown to feel the place is his own, even though it is simply a part of a chain.
Numbers weren’t good enough so the place is to be demolished. Manny is also facing a crucial moment in his personal life and about him a beautifully realised cast live out their lives.
Though a tale of blue-collar people up against the harsh realities of the system, its tone is not polemical but accepting in its expertly detailed portrayal of the everyday minutiae of restaurant life; its mundanity brought to life by Manny’s care. The feeling that tomorrow it begins all over again beautifully frames this moment in time as temporary as the snow.