Friday, August 8, 2014
Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Content Alert: Swearing and sex
When I heard that Rainbow Rowell had a new book out, I added it to my Amazon cart as quickly as I add those amazing sea salt butterscotch caramels that always seem to end up in my basket at Trader Joe's. I've read three of her previous books, and both Fangirl and Eleanor and Park rank up there with some of the most enjoyable reads of the last few years. I also read Attachments, which, like Landline, is an adult contemporary novel, and it was also a really fun read.
And maybe because Rowell had knocked it out of the park with her three previous novels, I had unrealistically high expectations for Landline. I wanted the sass of Eleanor mixed with the quirkiness of Cather (from Fangirl) and the wry honesty of Beth (of Attachments). But Landline is an altogether different animal. Georgie McCool is a tv writer who learns that all of her dreams are coming true-- she and her writing partner, Seth, have the opportunity of a lifetime to write their own pilot. The only catch is that the first several episodes must be written over Christmas break, and Georgie has promised her husband, Neal, that the family will go to Omaha to see his parents for Christmas. When Neal leaves with the girl, Georgie isn't sure if he's leaving for Christmas or really leaving.
She tries to call him on his cell phone, with no luck. Then she tries the landline from her mom's house, where she's been hanging out to avoid her own empty home, and Neal answers. The only weird thing is that it's the Neal from back when they were dating and almost broke up more than a dozen years ago. Georgie becomes obsessed with this Neal, and decides that talking to him is both what enabled them to stay together all those years ago, and what will save their marriage now.
I love Rainbow Rowell, but this is a WEIRD book. For one thing, Neal is almost completely absent from the narrative-- we see him in flashbacks and through Georgie's eyes, but the book takes place too much through Georgie to function well as a romance. I didn't love her character and I'm not sure I liked Neal's character, and I think that by putting us right in the moment of greatest stress in their relationship, it was hard to see them as people who I wanted to fall in love with each other. I love the concept of a romance for people who are long-married and struggling, and I wanted to love this book, but I found myself forcing myself to keep reading it. But I'll still read the next one. I saw glimpses of her earlier genius in this story, I just wish it were less about the misery of Georgie during this week and more about their relationship.