Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: "Landline" by Rainbow Rowell

"Landline" by Rainbow Rowell
First published in 2014
308 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

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By now, pretty much everyone has heard of the unforgettably-named Rainbow Rowell and her hit YA novel, "Eleanor and Park." I plan to read "E and P" eventually, but since I tend not to always like YA I was excited about Rowell's first adult novel, "Landline."

I admit to being a bit skeptical going in -- sometimes it seems like I almost set out to dislike books that have been super-hyped (especially YA) and I'm ready to seek out every little flaw, plus I didn't initially love our main character -- but I ended up really enjoying this fun, light book about marriage, family, love, priorities and second chances -- oh yeah, and "a magic fucking phone."

After over a decade, Georgie's marriage is falling apart. She loves her husband, Neal, and two daughters infinitely, but her job as a TV show writer keeps her insanely busy. Things between Georgie and Neal come to a head just before Christmas, when the family is supposed to head to Omaha to spend the holiday with Neal's family. Georgie and her writing partner and best friend Seth have just gotten the opportunity they've been waiting years for -- the chance to write their own show -- and Georgie opts out of Christmas in Omaha to work. Neal and the kids leave for Omaha without her -- and Neal may or may not be leaving Georgie for good.

Georgie and Neal's story is told in three parts: the present, when Neal is in Omaha refusing to answer his phone; the past, when Neal and Georgie meet in college; and the time of the miraculous yellow rotary phone in Georgie's childhood bedroom, on which -- impossible as it may seem -- she can apparently talk to Neal in December of 1998, another critical point in their relationship.

I particularly liked the parts of the book detailing the beginning of Georgie and Neal's relationship. I loved them both as young, fresh college students and I enjoyed the build-up of romantic tension. But the scenes with the "landline" are the ones from which the moral of the story come, and I thought the book had a nice little message about what it takes to make a marriage work.

I also liked that "Landline" is definitely an adult book -- and Rowell even sprinkled in some pop culture references for twenty- and thirtysomethings. All that said, it was not a perfect book. The writing was decent, the characters were pretty well-drawn (although I didn't like Georgie's mom), and it tackled the serious topic of a failing marriage... but there was something lacking for me. I'm not sure what would've made me give it 5 stars -- maybe a bit more depth? maybe a bit less predictability? maybe I had a problem with Georgie's TV scriptwriter job? -- but it needed just a little something else. It's definitely worth a chance, though. Save it for a time when you want something light and chick-lit-y with a happy ending.

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