In my humble opinion, Stewart O’Nan is one of the finest writers working today. With an amazing economy of words, he creates a reality and populates it with characters so genuine and true you quickly forget they exist only on the page. His are quiet books, rooted in universal emotions and filled with wonderfully descriptive prose that nails the smallest detail.
Last Night at the Lobster is another noteworthy work by this author. Tucked away in the corner of a mall that’s seen better days, the skeleton crew of a Red Lobster prepares to work their last shift before the restaurant is closed for good. As a nor’easter snowstorm rolls in, keeping away most of the customers, Manny goes through his manager’s routine from open to close, placating annoying patrons and mutinous staff alike, all the while absorbing the conflicting emotion a day full of “lasts” can bring.
By the end of this quick 146 pages, O’Nan has introduced us to a handful of working folks we’re glad to have met and sorry to take leave of so soon. Like other O’Nan stories that stayed with me long after I closed the book (Snow Angels and one of my all-time favorites, A Prayer for the Dying) recently I’ve caught myself wondering how Manny, Roz and Ty are getting along now over at the Olive Garden?