I’ll admit, I was late to the party – everyone was already gushing wildly about Rainbow Rowell, especially the YA love story Eleanor & Park, by the time I finally picked up one of her books. There’s just something about THAT much effusive praise that makes me wary. But then I read the blurb for Fan Girl, and I just couldn’t deny my interest anymore. Of course, just as so many have fallen before me, once I read one of her books, I immediately had to buy them all, while cursing my contrarian nature for depriving me of the Rowell magic for so long. All of this brings us to Attachments, which was Rowell’s first novel, published in 2011, and how much I freaking love this book.
When the story starts, Lincoln has just accepted a night job in the IT department of the local newspaper. He’s immediately bored, not to mention disappointed that he’s not actually in charge of keeping master hackers at bay or some other cool computer shit. Instead he’s just sitting in the basement, by himself, eating the lunch his mom packed for him and reading through emails caught by the new company filter. Enter Beth and Jennifer, two best friends in that workplace way that allows people with few things in common become incredibly close. Jennifer talks about her loving husband and her apprehension to having children, and Beth complains about her musician boyfriend and her younger sisters getting married before her. They both have incredible wit, but it’s Beth that Lincoln can’t stop thinking about – her jokes, her movie quotes, her kindness. As Lincoln is simultaneously creeped out by his invasion of Beth’s privacy and unable to stop reading, he starts to re-examine other areas of his life, and tries to figure out how he managed to get so stuck. But Beth is stuck too, she’s just less aware of it because on paper everything looks great. But as she slowly starts to realize what’s missing in her life (and to discuss it with Jennifer via email), Lincoln gains some insight into his own problems.
This was the part I loved most about Lincoln: his completely relatable confusion. I think everyone, especially in their late 20s-early 30s, goes through periods of wondering how in the hell their lives turned out so different from what they expected. Lincoln is still stuck on the girl that broke his heart, living at home with his mom after finally running out of university degrees to get, and trying to figure out what he has to offer the world. I loved the subtle shift from when he starts making changes in his life (and to his appearance) initially because he wants to live up to Beth’s expectations of him, but eventually he starts doing things for himself. But be forewarned, this book packs an emotional wallop that I’ve come to expect from Rainbow Rowell’s books.
Rowell also manages to keep the secondary characters interesting, subverting expectations, like the D&D players who all seem like genuinely nice people with regular adult lives or the 70-year-old woman who befriends Lincoln. I was worried that Doris would be a stereotypical “sad, lonely, old lady”, but instead she’s awesome and giving Lincoln dating advice. Or Justin, who I thought would be a douchey fratboy type, but actually turns out to be a really good friend.
If you, like me, were late to the Rowell love train, then this is probably the book I would recommend starting with – Eleanor & Park is more beloved, but I found it a bit harder to relate to the main characters. Don’t worry though, after reading any one of her books, you will immediately want to read the others regardless!
(Extended gushing about Rainbow Rowell here)