I discovered Rainbow Rowell’s novels earlier this year, thanks to many recommendations from several friends. Her latest, “Landline,” differs from her most recent novels in that it’s not YA. Of all her novels, this one feels the most grown-up to me; it’s also the most supernatural or science fiction-ish.
Georgie McCool is a successful television writer who has two young daughters with her stay-at-home husband Neal. Georgie and Neal have been together since college, but their marriage has become strained as Georgie’s career has taken off. She and her longtime writing partner Seth have been given the opportunity to write their own show, which means cranking out several episode scripts right as Christmas approaches. Instead of traveling to Omaha with her family to visit Neal’s mother for the holiday, Georgie decides to stay in LA. So Neal decides to take the girls and leave without her. But has he left for the holidaym or has he left her for good? Distraught by his leaving and stressed about her show, Georgie retreats to her mother’s house, and spends her nights calling Neal to try to reconcile. Only the landline she uses to call him has an unexpected effect – Georgie is able to reach Neal from the past. Soon she finds herself wondering – is she supposed to talk past-Neal into staying with her, or is she supposed to send him away to find happiness without her?
The story jumps back and forth between the Christmas in question and the beginnings of Georgie and Neal’s relationship. The flashbacks were my favorite part, to be honest: Rowell is excellent at writing the swoony, wistful moments that come at the start of any courtship. And, naturally, the novel is filled with her usual wit, humor, and pop culture references. The time travel curiousness of the phone naturally elicits references from Back to the Future to Quantum Leap.
Despite the sci-fi twist, this novel felt so real to me. Relationships are hard. They take work. Sometimes, one person can feel neglected by the other, who may not realize they’re taking that one for granted. You have to be willing to put in the work – and sometimes, a grand gesture helps, as Georgie and Neal both realize at separate points.
Comparing “Landline” to Rowell’s previous works, it’s not as lighthearted as “Attachments,” nor as intense as “Eleanor & Park,” but somewhere in the middle, I’d say. I’d recommend it to anyone who has liked her other novels, or to anyone who enjoys reading about well-drawn characters facing realistic problems – with a little supernatural twist thrown in to make it interesting.
And with this, I’ve reached my goal of a quarter Cannonball! I’m still reading, but I probably won’t write any more reviews after this. I’ll just keep enjoying everyone else’s reviews instead!