Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
“Nobody’s lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen -- because you love each other.”
I know I’m a little behind the times with this one, but after loving Eleanor and Park a few years ago, and then reading Fangirl and Attachments in 2016 and 2017 respectively, I decided to check out Landline from the library. Rainbow Rowell is one of those writers that seems to excel at everything she writes. Eleanor and Park is widely hailed as the book that you should read if you’re looking for good young adult literature. Landline is about the marriage of Georgie and Neal. They have been married for fourteen years and have two children, but something is off with their marriage. They are stuck in an unhappy place, but Georgie and her best friend and writing partner Seth have been given the chance of a lifetime to write 4 episodes of their dream tv comedy. The only problem is they have to give the scripts to the network a couple of days after Christmas, and Georgie, Neal, and the kids are supposed to be in Omaha visiting Neal’s family for Christmas. When Neal takes the kids to Omaha without her, Georgie is left wondering if this is the end of their marriage.
When Georgie goes to stay at her mom’s house instead of staying at home alone, her cell phone battery keeps dying, so she tries to call Neal and the kids from her mom’s landline. When she finally does get a hold of Neal through the landline, Georgie discovers she is actually talking to Neal in 1998, during the only other time they were taking a break. Georgie thinks she is having a nervous breakdown, but then wonders if she can fix everything by changing something in the past.
Rowell uses flashbacks to give us more context for Neal’s personality and how Georgie and Neal fell in love. But first, we see the relationship between Georgie and Seth. They’ve been best friends and writing partners for almost twenty years. The two rely on each other and spend almost every work day together. It would be really easy for Neal to get jealous, and even though Neal and Seth don’t really care for one another, Neal doesn’t seem jealous. But I think Rowell made an excellent character choice by making Seth a jerk. He cares a lot for Georgie, but he is selfish with his love and does not understand why Georgie’s marriage issues should have any effect on her writing. So I am glad this was not a love triangle book. I absolutely loved the scenes where Georgie and Neal first meet. Georgie and Seth work at The Spoon, the college comedy magazine, and Neal is the cartoonist. Georgie doesn’t notice him until two years in, and from then on, Neal is it for her. Neal doesn’t laugh and for a comedy writer, that should bother Georgie, right? But the two of them are drawn to each other despite the fact that Seth is always there and Neal technically has a girlfriend. Once they start dating, they both know it is for life.
Rowell uses the magic landline phone as a way for Georgie to “go back” in time to figure out what went wrong, except that it is future Georgie talking to past Neal. I love using this question as a plot device: if you can go back in time and fix a past mistake, would you? Even if it would change something in history? In theory, it seems like an easy answer. Yes, I want to go back and say something I should have or shut up when I said too much. But if Georgie talks to past Neal and changes something, does that prevent them from having Alice and Noomi (an adorable nickname for Naomi)? I think that is part of the beauty that is Rowell’s writing; she creates an interesting tool to describe something everyone has felt at one point or another.
I have always loved the characters in Rowell’s novels, but I think Neal takes the cake for me. He does not smile or laugh often, but when he does, he lights up Georgie’s room. He becomes a stay-at-home dad so that Georgie can live out her dreams. Also, the fact that he draws on Georgie when they’re dating and then even throughout their marriage? I don’t know why, but swoon. At one point, Georgie says she needs Neal more than Neal needs her, and while from the outside, it may look like that, but I think Neal needs Georgie just as much. He needs her to be her best self and love him like he loves her.
I really enjoyed Landline; I give it 4 stars. And now I think it is time for me to reread Eleanor and Park.
What Rainbow Rowell book is your favorite?