Decided to treat myself to some Rainbow Rowell because I love her writing. I read Fangirl last November and adored most everything about it. Eleanor and Park was next and that book made me feel like I’d been through something. It was a few days before I picked up another book as I was busy mooning around with that rare dreamy bubble a good movie sometimes imparts.
Landline came out way back in July so I get points for resisting this long.
One thing I loved about Fangirl and Eleanor and Park was the Nebraska setting. I’d never visited the state in life or fiction and enjoyed reading about life there. Learning Landline is set in Los Angeles was like thinking you’e going to your favorite diner (right now mine is Toast in Asbury Park, NJ because they have a gluten free waffle!) and winding up at Ruby Tuesdays. Oh well. It’s still a Rainbow Rowell book and it starts with a fight so that’s a good sign.
Georgie McCool comes home late from her fancy television job with some good bad news. A huge opportunity. She and her writing partners have the green light to write a pilot for a show they’ve wanted to do for years. The hitch is they need to deliver it yesterday, which means she’s not leaving with her husband Neal and their two daughters for Christmas in Omaha, not yet. She’ll stay the week, write the show, then fly over in time for Christmas Eve.
The reader can tell by their first exchange this marriage is in trouble and Georgie is the only one who doesn’t see it. It might already be over. Once her family is gone, she’s not sure if he’s left her left her, and he refuses to speak to her on the phone. She can’t concentrate on the script, can’t go back to their empty house so she drives to her childhood home.
Here the story kicks into awesome ’80s movie gear. Georgie plugs in the old yellow landline and inexplicably reaches Neal, not her 37-year-old husband, but the 22-year-old man he was when she met him. This could be her chance to work out the problems in her marriage or face that perhaps marrying each other was a big mistake. She knows too many changes could erase her marriage and her children, but obviously something is wrong.
You don’t now when you’re twenty-three.
You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there.
I love the premise and haven’t read many falling-back-in-love-or-maybe-breakup (I’m not spoiling) books. It’s fun and cleaver because the phone-heavy plot calls for a lot of talk and Rowell is a master of dialogue.
Though I can enjoy a book without liking the characters (I didn’t like any of them) I never warmed up to this one. We spend most of our time with mopey Georgie and her annoying writing partner, who sort of forms a tension-less love triangle that reads more like contrived busyness than conflict. I also didn’t buy that Georgie is this brilliant comedy writer; if she has a sense of humor it doesn’t show. Melodramatic soap writing would’ve been more believable.
I can’t not compare this to Fangirl and E&P. They had a natural tone and seemingly easy progression with moments of vulnerability, pain, longing and humor sparkled. After only two of Rowell’s books, I associated a sort loveliness to her storytelling that I didn’t get here. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more if I wasn’t so distracted, wondering why Georgie doesn’t just get on a plane to Omaha since she’s not getting work done anyway.
The landline is a brilliant tool though for evaluating a relationship at both ends. People change pretty drastically from their early twenties through their thirties and I appreciated that Georgie realized staying together wasn’t necessarily a given. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, we hop back and forth from will they/ won’t they stay together more often than we jump in time.
I wanted to like this, but oh well. Still have Attachments on the to-read pile. If you haven’t read Rowell yet, start with the best:
Eleanor and Park