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Today I am more than thrilled to be reviewing Landline by Rainbow Rowell, out tomorrow from St. Martin’s Press. Like Rowell’s first novel Attachments, Landline is an adult novel, but I can tell you that it will be delightfully consumed by her fans both young and old.
The main character is Georgie, an overworked television writer right on the verge of getting her big break—pitching a sitcom along with her longtime writing partner Seth. The only problem is that her big opportunity comes right at Christmastime, when she’s set to travel to Omaha to visit her husband Neal’s family, along with her two young daughters, Alice and Noomi.
After Georgie breaks the news, Neal sets off with the girls for Omaha and Georgie stays behind to work with Seth on preparing for their pitch, but she can’t shake the gnawing feeling inside that she may have finally broken something in her marriage, something she’s not sure she can fix. Besides missing out on important family time, Georgie’s complicated relationship with Seth has got Neal on edge. Before there was Georgie & Neal the couple, there was Georgie & Seth the “will they/won’t they” best friends. Worried and distraught, Georgie decides to spend some time at her mother’s house, and makes a shocking discovery after she calls Neal from the landline in her old room—the phone doesn’t call present-day Neal, but Neal from years ago, from their college days.
I’m swooning just recapping the book. Rowell takes the reader back and forth in time, reliving Georgie’s college days and the first blush of her romance with Neal and bouncing back to the present as she faces the challenges of marriage and her career. The flash-backs to college days ensure that, though written for adults, Landline is totally accessible to younger readers while Georgie’s path to motherhood and job success while balancing her relationship will ring true to many older readers. I couldn’t put it down.
Landline has all the heart of a great romantic story with none of the cheese. Unlike in most books or movies where a central female character is trying to choose between two suitors, it’s not an entirely clear-cut choice between Neal and Seth—they’re both good men. They each get their moments to shine in the book, and each gets a few of those heart-stopping romantic lines Rowell is so adept at penning. Besides being refreshing narratively, this is amazing because it brings the focus back to Georgie, back to her decisions and what she really wants from her life, rather than having her simply be another woman whose identity is defined by who she decides to be involved with romantically.
Romance doesn’t dry up once you leave college, and it doesn’t become some awkward Sex and the City farce either. Like always, Rowell delivers something real, managing to turn seemingly everyday relationships of a woman into swirling romance because she knows that’s what it really is. It doesn’t take a knight on a white horse—it just takes someone who loves you.