Stewart O'Nan is the author of sixteen previous novels, including City of Secrets, West of Sunset, The Odds, Emily Alone, Songs for the Missing, Last Night at the Lobster, A Prayer for the Dying, and Snow Angels. His 2007 novel Last Night at the Lobster was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his family.
O'Nan's tenth novel (after The Good Wife) demonstrates once again why the author is known as the "bard of the working class." It's December 20, closing day for the New Britain, CT, Red Lobster restaurant, abandoned by headquarters owing to mediocre sales. Manager Manny De Leo had to let most of his employees go-only five can transfer with him to the Olive Garden-and is counting on the good will of a few to run the place. As he opens, we hear in intimate detail about routine tasks (changing the oil in the Frialator) and tacky decorations (the shellacked marlin on the wall). Manny will miss it; it's his shop, and he takes pride in it. He'll also miss Jacquie, the waitress with whom he had a brief, intense affair. As snow falls, Manny handles the regulars, Christmas parties, the mall crowd, and his small crew with aplomb, constantly aware of his losses. This slice-of-life novel is funny, poignant, and exquisitely rendered. Strongly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/07.]-Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Set on the last day of business of a Connecticut Red Lobster, this touching novel by the author of Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying tells the story of Manny DeLeon, a conscientious, committed restaurant manager any national chain would want to keep. Instead, corporate has notified Manny that his-and Manny does think of the restaurant as his-New Britain, Conn., location is not meeting expectations and will close December 20. On top of that, he'll be assigned to a nearby Olive Garden and downgraded to assistant manager. It's a loss he tries to rationalize much as he does the loss of Jacquie, a waitress and the former not-so-secret lover he suspects means more to him than his girlfriend Deena, who is pregnant with his child. On this last night, Manny is committed to a dream of perfection, but no one and nothing seems to share his vision: a blizzard batters the area, customers are sparse, employees don't show up and Manny has a tough time finding a Christmas gift for Deena. Lunch gives way to dinner with hardly anyone stopping to eat, but Manny refuses to close early or give up hope. Small but not slight, the novel is a concise, poignant portrait of a man on the verge of losing himself. (Nov.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"A deeply moving novel about how we work, how we live, and how we
get to the next day with our spirits intact. If there was ever a
book that embodies what's best in us, it's Stewart O'Nan's Last
Night at the Lobster."
"[O'Nan's] vivid portrait of the Lobster ultimately conveys,
somewhat miraculously, the warmth and comfort the restaurant
provides Manny. . . . O'Nan's empathy for his characters is one of
his greatest gifts as a novelist, and it is an impressive
achievement that Manny's misplaced affection for Red Lobster is not
risible, but tragic."
--The New York Times Book Review "A masterful portrait. . . . The scope and emotional range of this poignant story are surprisingly narrow, as though O'Nan locked himself in a narrative box, tied one hand behind his back and then dared himself to make it engaging. The fact that he pulls it off is a testament to his precision and empathy."
--The Washington Post Book World "In prose as wondrously spare as the lives of the characters, O'Nan exposes their pathos, a stripped-down fragility made all the more poignant by their fledgling efforts at resilience. These are dutiful characters, with modest dreams and deep humility, yet with a persistent, almost instinctive fortitude that enables them to get up each morning and try again."
--The Boston Globe