The other day I read Stewart O'Nan's tiny little gem of a novel, Last Night at the Lobster, all in one sitting. It tells the story of Manny DeLeon, the dedicated and sensitive manager of a Red Lobster restaurant in New Britain, Connecticut, on the last day and night that they're open. The corporate powers-that-be have determined that that particular location is not showing good enough numbers, so they're being shut down. Manny will move into an assistant manager's position at an Olive Garden in a neighboring town, but he's allowed to take only five of his employees with him.
To complicate matters, it's just a few days before Christmas, and Manny still hasn't found an appropriately romantic gift for his pregnant girlfriend, Deena—nor has he gotten over his former girlfriend, Jacquie, a waitress at the restaurant. And, as if all that weren't enough, there's a major blizzard rolling in.
The descriptions of the day-to-day routines of a chain restaurant are spot-on (as confirmed by this former Memory Lane waitress), and the interrelationships among the chefs, waiters, manager, hostess, bartender, and customers (from the elderly couples to the stroller-pushing moms) are shown rather than told.
All in all, a wonderful read, even though it lasts only a couple of hours. Too much more and it would have gotten tedious, but I did wonder what would happen on Monday at the Olive Garden in Bristol.