Books 81 & 82, Last for 2007

81. Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan - This is a wonderful novella that shows that there is love, meaning and dignity in the most ordinary of lives. The story follows Manny Deleon through the last day at the Red Lobster he has managed for many years. The store is being closed by corporate due to low sales, but rather than close as a failure, Manny maintains that the restaurant will run that last day with the same professionalism and care that he tried to show every day. Then along comes a blizzard, and the few employees that stayed to the end start to show signs of giving up. If you've worked in retail or restaurants and found yourself caring more about your job than you intended to care; or made friends with coworkers that you never would have grown close to if it weren't for the job, you'll really life this sweet/sad little story.

82. The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen - A very good historical fiction that includes the 1918 Influenza epidemic, World War I disenters, and the tie between Socialism and unionization in the early 20th century. The story takes place in a logging town established on the principle that sharing the profits with everyone makes everyone profitable. When the "Spanish" flu breaks out in near by towns, the inhabitants agree that they will quarantine themselves until it passes by. Phillip, the adopted son of the owner of the mill is on guard when a starving soldier tries to enter the town, and when he finds himself unable to kill the soldier, the inhabitants true feelings about isolationism come to the surface. There's also the threat from a near by town that questions why so many able bodied lumberjacks managed to avoid going to war when their own sons are being killed in Europe. It's a good read about an event and political opinion that doesn't get a lot of attention, and the main characters have deep backstories that the author uses well to explain their feelings about their current situation.

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