Book Review # 14: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Number of Pages: 308
Date Published: July 8, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside 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 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?
I’ve always been drawn to Rainbow Rowell’s writing. Eleanor & Park, as well as Fangirl, continues to receive steady rating increases. I’ve only ever read Eleanor & Park but I’ve learned to trust Rowell’s writing ability ever since and I pretty much made the same assumption for Landline before it was even released.
However, the book has faired unusually until now and has gained mixed ratings and reviews from readers. I was adamant on holding off all judgment until I’ve brought those 300 pages to a close. Now after having done so, I realized that Landline did strike far from E&P but I didn’t think it was bad. It wasn’t remarkable but it wasn’t bad; not good, not bad, just different.
The book tells the story of Georgie and Neal. Georgie works as a TV writer while Neal stays at home and takes care of the house and their two kids. All of a sudden, a long-awaited opportunity forces Georgie to bail on their family’s Christmas vacation to Ohama. Despite the compromise between her and Neal, Georgie could not shake off the feeling of a growing conflict especially when it appears as if Neal has been avoiding her phone calls.
After several attempts, Georgie was finally able to speak to Neal using the landline from her mother’s house, but something didn’t seem right as she hears Neal make consecutive references to their past relationship (when they were young adults, you could say). She then realizes that she just spoke with Neal in the past and a chaos of thoughts and events follow suit.
I actually found myself enjoying after reading about 38% of this book. I admit the story did not have much to offer apart from some obvious character development but the writing managed to make me look at it in a different light. Reading Landline was like reading a TV script or watching a sitcom. It was fresh and light and seemed like a surprisingly sweet take on marriage.
I liked the characters well enough to read about them until the end. Georgie was wildly good at her job. Neal was awkwardly mysterious yet oozing with charm, as if that was even remotely possible. Seth, Georgie’s friend was career-driven and pushy but a hundred times more appealing than Neal. I can’t seem to get him out of my head. Lastly, Neal and Georgie together compose a perfect picture of messed up communication skills.
The themes are quite obvious and simple and thankfully, this novel does not tread the road of pretension. It simply lays out the conflicts – how they pile up, one after the other, and how the characters struggle to resolve a dust bunny of doubts and problems.
However, its themes, though befitting of an adult fiction novel, made the book more susceptible to predictability. As a matter of fact, everything was foreseeable.
To me Landline is an obvious reference to the dreadful consequences that lack of communication can result to. It asks clearly palpable questions that nobody could possibly take long to figure out. How does one really communicate with another? What happens when couples don’t? What if there isn’t really a word for everything?
Although I gave this book a decent rating, there are some things I can’t quite put my foot on: (1) It felt as if a substantial number of questions remained unanswered, (2) I didn’t know if I was supposed to feel creeped out or satisfied by that ending, (3) which was, unfortunately, too anticlimactic for my taste.
Landline pales in comparison to Eleanor and Park or probably any of Rowell’s other novels but it doesn’t hold off the possibility of attracting other readers, especially those who delight in lighter takes on marriage, work, and other supposedly weighty themes. Because of this, I won’t go so far as to discourage people from reading this book.
It still has that lovely narration that other Rainbow Rowell novels contain. It still has the capacity to draw readers in, maybe not through a captivating storyline, but through a comely bundle of exchanges and conversations. Now if you’re that type of reader and you have yet to know Rainbow Rowell’s books, I think Landline may be a good place to start.
Favorite Quotes from Landline
I love you more than I hate everything else.
Wasn’t that the point of life? To find someone to share it with?
And if you got that part right, how far wrong could you go? If you were standing next to the person you loved more than everything else, wasn’t everything else just scenery?
I think I can live without you, but it won’t be any kind of life.
How could she ever doubt that he loved her? When loving her was what he did better than all the things he did beautifully?