Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Page #: 308

Book Blurb: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Truth be told this is the first book by Rainbow Rowell that I've ever read. I know everybody has been talking about what a fabulous author she is and for some reason whenever I see her books in a bookstore I just can't commit to buying one of them. Finally I got up the nerve to read her most recent work. Let's just say I'm now a Rainbow Rowell fan.

At first I was a little bit skeptical about the premise of Landline because I've been disappointed by so many books that deal with failing marriages. They all follow the same annoying tropes and I always end up hating the female protagonist. Thankfully, this book dealt with the premise in a new and refreshing way. In fact, the story was so captivating that I read it all in one sitting.

Essentially, Landline deals with the struggling marriage of Neal and Georgie. Neal is a stay at home dad and Georgie is a perpetually busy tv writer who bows out of Christmas with her mother-in-law at the last minute for work. Neal and her two daughters depart without her, leaving Georgie to mope about her marriage. Strangely similar to the mailbox in the movie The Lake House starring Sandra Bullock, Georgie discovers that the old landline at her mother's home allows her to communicate with Neal from the past. This causes her to take a fresh look at their marriage and how far their relationship has come.

There were a number of reasons why I really couldn't help liking this book as a whole. First, for such a dramatic subject as a failing marriage, Rowell does a great job of peppering comedic moments throughout the book to prevent it from becoming too depressing or bogged down. A good chunk of those funny moments arrive courtesy of the secondary characters, who are some of the most unique characters I've come across lately. Every secondary character from Georgie's mom to her daughter Noomi had at least one quirky detail that made them come alive.

I also found myself really enjoying the flashbacks of Georgie and Neal's relationship in college. The flashbacks weren't jarringly placed in the narrative, but rather naturally unfold around Georgie's conversations with past Neal. The effect is a multilayered story that urges you to connect with both the past and present versions of the characters.

That being said, there were just a few complaints I had with the book that prevented me from giving it a full 5 stars. I really wish there were one or two more scenes before Neal leaves for Nebraska to help better portray the current state of their marriage and to get more of a feel for present Neal's character. I don't think we know enough about their current relationship to get the full payoff at the end. Additionally, as sweet and hopeful as the book ends, I was left with so many questions about their future.

Overall, Landline is another one of those great contemporary novels that I would definitely recommend and I'm no longer hesitant about checking out the other books Rainbow Rowell has written.