Originally published August 2014
Do you believe in do-overs?
I’m not talking a mulligan in golf—I’m talking, “Here’s my chance to take a different path, maybe marry someone else” kind of do-overs.
In Rainbow Rowell’s “Landline,” Georgie McCool doesn’t get a glimpse of what her life could have been—but she is offered up a chance to rewrite her past and its future. This book is less YA, like “Eleanor & Park” and “Fangirl,” and more women’s contemporary fiction, akin to “Attachments.” A teen could easily read this—but might not get as much out of the subject matter at hand, a marriage on the edge of collapse.
I should preface my review with an upfront recommendation—I might not agree with a book’s characters or its story arc, but I’m not the author. Any book that gets a visceral response out of me gets a recommendation because I LOVE books that provoke thought or even just plain piss me off. And “Landline” got a definite reaction out of me, so for that, read it and then tell me I’m wrong.
Want to listen to a clip? Macmillan Audio sent me a cool link to SoundCloud for Chapter 2—click here.
At the center of Landline is the aforementioned Georgie McCool—a comedy writer who has only ever dreamed of being a comedy writer. Georgie is married to Neal, the guy she set her sights on when she realized she was pining for a guy she thought would never come around—her best friend and partner in crime, Seth, with whom she worked at the campus satire magazine, The Spoon. At the time, Neal penned the comic that ran at the back of every issue. So it’s clear Neal is talented. What’s not so clear is Neal’s trajectory in life. He’s an oceanology major that discovers he hates the ocean. He’s thinking maybe he’ll go home and be a railroad detective. The only thing he’s really sure about is that he doesn’t like Seth.
The story begins with Georgie and Seth being offered the possibility to land the show of their dreams, but only if they’re willing to work through Christmas. It’s this work intrusion—the latest after years of them—that sends Neal off to his mother’s home in Nebraska, with he and Georgie’s two daughters in tow—that has Georgie wondering if she’s risking her marriage, and maybe, just maybe, if this is her chance to really make Neal happy.
With the help of a magic phone (yes, you will to need to suspend reality a bit … just go with it!) Georgie is able to learn something about herself, her husband, and what matters most in the world. It was a breeze of a book, in that I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a quick, enjoyable, love story, Landline will do you right. Now for my rant … SPOILERS AHEAD!
Everyone is going to have a different opinion about this, and that’s what makes books so awesome—no one reads it the exact same way. But for me? I wanted to bitchslap Neal, heartily. First of all, he’s a guy admittedly floating through life. In college with a major he doesn’t even like, he has a girl clearly interested in him, and he’s quiet and even kind of douchey to her. Once a relationship is established, he can’t deal with the fact she has a close working relationship with a guy. So he marks his territory by putting a ring on it.
That would be fine and dandy, but it’s pretty well established by the author that Georgie is kinda a career gal. And there are points where Neal seems to understand that—so much so he opts for being the stay-at-home dad. But when Georgie and Seth get their shot, at the worst time of the year to mess up family plans, he goes all douchey again. I understand keeping those plans to see family, but Neal has to recognize how tough this is on Georgie. Instead, rather than continuing to be supportive of her career, he shuts her out. Dude, she was trying to call you. Over and over. And Over and Over. And then on to the magic phone. But no, you gotta take the kids to see your ex-girlfriend and her parrot. Jeebus. I have to admit, I was kinda hoping Georgie would kiss Seth. I loved the fact he knew something was wrong—at least he was trying to talk to her, unlike Mr. Crankypants, Neal.
And Rowell also scared the crap out of me with the pug in the dryer. You’ll have to read the book. For a split second, I thought that wasn’t going to end well at all. Thankfully, the story did.