Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend, a group of us were enjoying a lovely Mother's Day walk around Sea Cliff when we met our friend Charlie Weinstein . After talking about books, real estate, and restaurants- three top favorite Sea Cliff topics- someone mentioned having read a book about the closing of a restaurant. Charlie thought his book group might be interested but no one knew the name of the book. Any ideas? Book Stalker

Dear Book Stalker, I just finished reading LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER by Stewart O'Nan- a new favorite author of mine- and yes, it would be a fine choice for a book club. The novel (a quick 146 pages) is set in a Red Lobster chain restaurant in a Connecticut mall during a blizzard a few days before Christmas. The corporate owners have told the long time manager Manny Deleon that they are closing his restaurant. O'Nan creates in fine detail a portrait of this workplace: the cooks, wait staff, hostess, line people and the customers -from cranky toddlers, to coupon-bearing retirees, boisterous party goers, and predictable regulars; all come under the loving eye of the flawed but decent and indeed noble Manny. The novel recounts the last day from his unlocking of its doors to its final closing that night. His workers will all have to find new jobs- Manny himself will be an assistant manager at an Olive Garden. Since his customers have no idea that it is the restaurant's last day, Manny's dealings with petty squabbles, half price coupons, irritable waitresses, comment cards, and a mutinous kitchen staff take on a hellish, tragic-comedic quality. At the end, we are left with a strange respect for a man who has given his love and loyalty to, yes, a Red Lobster restaurant, and sadness that this love and loyalty goes unrequited.

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