I decided to continue exploring Rainbow Rowell’s oeuvre, this time with one of her earlier books, Attachments. One of the unique things about this book includes its narrative structure, which includes traditional third-person perspective interspersed with email correspondence between two additional, central characters.
Specifically, the book focuses on Lincoln, a 28-year old IT guy at a newspaper company whose sole job consists of reading email correspondence and flagging them for profanity and company violations. (The story occurs in 1999, a simpler technological time where the threat of Y2K loomed realistically). Lincoln is a bit of a sad sap; he hasn’t dated seriously since his high-school girlfriend dumped him nearly a decade ago, he lives with his mother, and his only social outings consists of weekly Dungeons and Dragons meetings. His sister consistently encourages him to leave his comfort zone and DO SOMETHING, but Lincoln lacks the interest and/or emotional motivation to pursue anything beyond his limited agenda. He’s merely existing, not living.
A few weeks after joining the company, Lincoln reads an email between two reporters, Jennifer and Beth, which has been flagged for profanity and the nature of the conversation (i.e., non-company related matters). Lincoln is immediately charmed by their email, including their humor, support and respect for one another. Lincoln doesn’t have the heart to report them to HR. Instead, he continues to read their personal communications and learn more about their private lives: Jennifer’s strong marriage and reluctance to have children, and Beth’s musician boyfriend who blows hot and cold. Slowly, without even having seen her or knowing what she looks like, Lincoln begins to fall for Beth.
It’s true that Lincoln’s behavior borders on stalker-ish; however, we learn that he understands and struggles with his choice to keep reading their messages. Also, given that we the reader also have access to their emails, we come to know and appreciate these characters more, and can sympathize with Lincoln’s dilemma. Indeed, one of the best things about the book is the portrayal of Beth and Jennifer’s relationship, how realistic and supportive and strong they are. Slowly, this view into their private lives inspires Lincoln to make some changes to his own, consequently branching out to other social pursuits and hobbies.
I won’t say any more (although the story does end in true romantic-comedy fashion), but if you like light films in the vein of Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail, you’ll definitely enjoy this sweet novel.