What I’m Reading Wednesday: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landline

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 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 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?

So, of course, when I heard Rainbow Rowell was coming out with a new book I thought, YES! I need to read it right away. I’d been busy, but my friend finished her copy and lent it to me. I read the description and I have to admit, I was feeling a little bit lackluster toward the premise. I had a feeling I would love the book, I mean, come on, it’s Rainbow Rowell, I just wasn’t too excited about reading about a landline phone with almost time travel abilities.

A lot of what I love about Rowell’s writing style is how REAL it is. How could she make this book real with something so not real as such a big part of the plot? Well, my friends, Rowell is magic, that’s how. I’m convinced Rowell can write anything and make you feel like it really happened. Like it could really happen. Like every emotion felt by every character in her books is something you have felt, will feel someday, or know someone who has experienced or will experience. Yes, a phone that allows Georgie to talk to her husband Neal before he was her husband Neal feels as real as any fan fiction Cath writes or any song Park plays for Eleanor.

I loved the almost train of thought feel to Landline. That doesn’t mean that it was hard to follow, but it did mean that it was all over the place, just as you would assume someone’s narrative would be who is going through a maybe-separation from her husband, who can’t stop replaying memories wondering where she went wrong-or right, and who is missing her kids and her other half so horribly.

“You don’t know when you’re twenty-three.
You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten – in fifteen. 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.
She didn’t know at twenty-three.”

Another thing I loved about this novel is that the two people in this struggling relationship were madly and deeply in love with each other. So often, in fiction and reality, when a couple is on the verge of divorce, you don’t get the sweetness and commentary that Rowell writes in Landline. It’s hard to root for a couple to stay together when all they feel toward each other is hatred and resentment, but with Georgie and Neal, they wanted their “enough to be good enough.” They wanted it so badly.

(Okay, quote dump: I just have to with a Rainbow Rowell book)

“Nobody’s lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen – because you love each other.”

“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.”

“She thought of … the way he never made her feel crazy, even when she was acting crazy, and never made her feel like a failure, even when she was failing.”

“How could she ever doubt that he loved her? When loving her was what he did better than all the things he did beautifully?”

“I love you,” he said. “I love you more than I hate everything else.”

I admire Rowell’s ability to span age groups. I’m waiting for the day she writes a middle grade novel….Having moved from her YA, to her NA to this, it’s just a beautiful progression and there’s no hiccups, no one book that was worse off than the one before. She writes marriage, and work, and kids and life better than most. All the little things kids do and the so close to real life conversations will really hit home with a lot of parents.

“When I wake up on Sunday Mornings – late, you always let me sleep in – I come looking for you, and you’re in the backyard with dirt on your knees and two little girls spinning around you in perfect orbit. And you put their hair in pigtails and you let them wear whatever madness they want, and Alice planted a fruit cocktail tree and Noomi ate a butterfly, and they look like me because they’re round and golden, but they glow for you.”

“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.”

The Gilmore Girls fan in me really appreciates all of the pop-culture references, and even the Amy Sherman-Palladino shout out. It’s that same kind of feel: quick, witty, full of everything good.

So if you have doubts about Landline because it is sort of paranormal, or it is about married people with kids…don’t. I repeat…it is full of everything good.

 

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