Monday, January 24, 2011

What I Am Reading Now - "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stuart O'Nan

This was a book club choice.  One of the things I like about book club is that I end up reading books that I probably wouldn't pick up otherwise.  Stuart O'Nan has written several other novels over the years including "The Good Wife."  This particular book is about the last night that a Red Lobster is open and how the manager is trying to keep it all together.  He is trying to keep a mutinous crew on task and sort out his personal life between the waitress he loves and the girl friend who is pregnant.  Mr. O'Nan uses very expressive language and artfully brings the reader into the novel.  He really draws his characters and that is what this novel is about, characters.  This is about one man coming to terms with his life in one last shift.

One of the things that caught my attention on the first page of the novel was the language the author used.  His description of a New England mall a few days before Christmas was vivid.  Cars "sniffed" for parking spots.  They were crusted with salt.  I was standing in the parking lot with them.  Mr. O'Nan had a way of describing things but not telling you about them.  All description was firmly part of the narrative, a master of "show don't tell."  Something that as a writer myself, I struggle with every time I write something and still have a very long way to go before I master it.  He shows you the story, he mentions Jacquie and you get the hint that Manny and Jacquie had a relationship.  He indicates that the relationship is in the past just by one simple sentence.  He does not go into a big retrospective on it.  It simply becomes a ribbon that weaves through out the entire story.  Reading this book is like getting on to a highway. When you get on, you move forward, you don't go back and look at the exits you missed.

Another thing that drew me to this book is that it is set in Connecticut where I grew up and I am married to an ex-chef.  So reading it was like greeting old friends when he mentioned New Britain, West Hartford, and Barkhamsted.  Even though I never worked in a kitchen or restaurant myself, reading about Manny going through and getting everything ready for the day brought back my early years of marriage when my husband brought home stories of kitchens and customers.  So to me there was a certain familiarity with the setting, like coming home a bit.

All in all I would say this book is a read.  Is it action packed?  No.  But it is a very interesting character study and work of incredible writing.  It makes me want to go out and read more of Mr. O'Nan's work.  Which is the highest compliment I can think of for an author.

Next up on the list, some popcorn for the eyes, "Show No Mercy" by Cindy Gerard.

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