Thursday, May 7, 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline is written by the author of eleanore & park, Rainbow Rowell and it came highly recommended by several of the book blogs that I follow. It was also the choice of the online book club I've joined. I was shocked to see it on the shelf at the library and I snatched it up as quick as I could while looking over my shoulder ready to fight someone for it if necessary.

Landline features thirty-seven-year-old Georgie McCool (how great is that character name?), wife of Neal and mother to Alice, 7, and Noomie, 4. She is also a writer on a very successful sitcom and is just about to have the most important meeting of her career. Unfortunately, this meeting means she must cancel the trip to visit Neal's family in Omaha for Christmas. Neal is shocked when she announces this the night before they are set to leave, but not nearly as surprised as Georgie is when Neal decides he and their daughters will simply go without her. Hurt and worried that her marriage is failing, Georgie spends the next evening at her mother's house. When she attempts to call Neal from the old, yellow landline phone she had as a teenager (her cell phone is on the fritz), they have a very confusing conversation. It takes her a few days to understand, but Georgie has somehow found a connection to the Neal she knew just before they were married. Georgie in the present is able to talk with Neal of the past. Can she use this connection to fix her marriage even before the problems begin? Should she?

I really liked this book. It was an extremely quick read for me- I started on Sunday and finished Monday evening. We are able to hear about Georgie's current life as well as watch her courtship with Neal via flashbacks. This book is a conversation about what marriage really is. When Hollywood ends the story with "And they all lived happily ever after...", we all know there is more to the story. Or at least we say we do. Some of what Hollywood has done to make real life difficult, beyond all the impossible to achieve standards of beauty, is to tell us that if our lives, our marriages aren't straight off the screen of a romantic comedy we must be doing something wrong. Those grand gestures are lovely, but typically only sustainable for the two-hour run time of the film. Real life, real marriages, involve negotiating household chores, coming home from work tired to kids that need attention and leaving very little time for romance with one's spouse, trying to fit everything in while remembering who and what is most important. In Landline, we watch as Georgie realizes that she has let her marriage flounder a bit and we also get to see her remember all the things that made her fall in love with Neal in the first place.

Neal didn't take Georgie's breath away. Maybe the opposite. But that was okay- that was really good, actually, to be near someone who filled your lungs with air.

I adore that this book highlights the value of what is real rather that just what sounds the most romantic.

"Nobody's lives just fit together," Neal said. "Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen- because you love each other."

And Georgie's marriage is important to her. She loves Neal, but she knows things have gone wrong.

When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.

Of course, another thing that Hollywood doesn't usually get right is that having a family complicates things, but it adds so much as well.

Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy....And they took it first.
...When Georgie and Neal were smiling at each other, it was almost always over Alice and Noomie's heads.
Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you'd never want to.

This book was also really funny, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Rainbow Rowell. I love the bit when Georgie is bra shopping and wishes she had a landline to her own younger self so she could tell her how lovely she was. And if Rowell didn't have my heart before, she certainly earned it with the references to Doctor Who, Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time

This was a great, quick, fun read; it would be perfect for the upcoming vacation season. However, there was also plenty of meat to it. I expect it would lead to some very interesting book club discussions. I know there are a lot of quotes in this post, but I just couldn't do without any of them. I hope you'll pick up a copy of Landline and I'd love to hear what you think about it. 

No comments: