by Stewart O'Nan, 2007, 146 pages
The scene is the last day of operation at one Red Lobster location in a run down corner of a New England mall. Manny DeLeon, the manager here for years, has come to feel the restaurant is his, and the loss of it weighs deeply on him. He takes pride in his work and cares for the employees under his supervision.
The book opens as Manny arrives for the last day of work at the Red Lobster, which is complicated by the huge snowstorm on the way, the last minute no-shows of some key employees, and Manny's lingering feelings for his ex-girlfriend -- the waitress Jacquie. Also causing distraction is the fact that Christmas is only 4 days away and he still doesn't know what to get his pregnant girlfriend. He wants to find that one gift that will make their relationship better, and in a larger sense, Manny is looking for the one perfect thing that will make everything better. Despite his best intentions, the day winds to a close much the way it opened, and the book ends.
This novel is extremely poetic in its sparse way. There is a whirlwind of character and emotion in the short 146 page book. The reader comes to care for Manny and his restaurant, despite the fact that they are both, in some ways, losers.