I just finished reading Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster, which is a really lovely little book. It takes place a few days before Christmas, which happens to also be the last night in the life of this particular Red Lobster. The next day, they will be shut down, and the manager, Manny, will break the news to any customers who come by hoping for a little shrimp scampi or those fantastic biscuits.
While Manny frets over his relationship with two women, he also wrestles with questions of loyalty to the company that closed him down without any explanation (although he and four other employees were given jobs with the Olive Garden, which is part of the same parent company) and what it means that he cares so much about life at the Lobster. Employees he expected don’t show up, and others come to work even though there’s really nothing in it for them after this final shift. Manny finds himself wanting to do a good job for the company right up until the end, and he struggles with the realization that all the rituals he’s used to performing to get ready for another day are pointless. There is no tomorrow for this particular Lobster. It’s a bittersweet book, but I really enjoyed it. In all fairness, when Chuck Klosterman spoke at UCA on Tuesday, he mentioned that in a lot of literary novels not much happens, and that’s true here. It’s a simple story, but a nice one, athough I also can’t say how much I would like this book if I had never waited tables. That’s not to say that you need to have worked in food service to enjoy the book, but I couldn’t read it without thinking about how much I used to loved that job.