I read Attachments, and really liked it. I read Carry On, and also really liked it. And then I read Landline. Well, listened to Landline, which faintingviolet now tells me was a mistake. I tried to like it, I really did. But I really couldn’t.
There were so many places this could go. And by so many places, I mean anywhere. There was a great set-up, and then nothing really happened. There were great opportunities, and none of them were taken.
Landline features a comedy writer, Georgie McCool (yes, that’s her real name.) She and her writing partner, Seth, have an opportunity to actually get their own show, their dream show, green-lit and off the ground. The only problem is they have to work through Christmas. Seth is fine, but Georgie is married with two kids, and has plans to go to her in-laws in Omaha, Nebraska for the holiday. But it’s a great opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so she stays behind while her husband, Neal, takes the kids to his mom’s house a few thousand miles away.
So, this is a fairly normal situation, and probably happens all the time. But almost immediately after they leave, Georgie starts falling apart. She can’t seem to get Neal on his cell phone, so tries the landline phone in her room to call his mom’s landline. (Oh, and Georgie’s cell phone battery is shot, so she can only use it if it’s plugged in. She never goes to get it fixed, which would have solved some of these problems.) (The excuse that Neal gets bad reception in Omaha is bull, because Georgie can talk to her kids and mother-in-law on his cell phone. The only person she can never seem to reach is Neal himself.) Anyway, when Georgie calls his house from her childhood bedroom, the call somehow connects to Neal 15 years ago, during the one period in their relationship when they were fighting and not talking.
We bounce between the present, with Georgie becoming more and more frantic to talk to present-Neal and becoming obsessed with talking to past-Neal, and the past to see the progression of their relationship. This whole time, Georgie is not going to her own house and is staying at her mom’s, only without anything she would need to be a functioning human, such as changes of clothing. Apparently, Georgie is not good at being an adult. She never goes clothes shopping, she can’t get her act together to fix her phone, and she can’t separate her personal life from her work life.
As she becomes more unhinged about the state of her marriage and possibly messing up the timeline, she focuses less and less on her job, the entire reason she’s not with her family for the holidays. She is being completely unfair to her writing team, and won’t even tell Seth, her writing partner and best friend, what is bothering her. And I can’t really see why. The fact that she’s ruining this opportunity for more than just herself makes me angry. She’s being a shitty writer, a shitty friend, and a shitty wife.
The other thing that makes me mad is that nothing happens. There is no resolution to anything. We don’t find out why there was a magic phone to the past. We don’t find out if anything happened because of it. It doesn’t really seem to change anything. She promises herself that she’ll be a better wife to Neal, but we don’t know how long that will last. None of their issues have gone away. We also don’t find out if there were consequences to her flaking out at her job.
Honestly, I kinda wanted to see what she would have been like if she had ended up with Seth. Either they would have been happy and wildly successful, or their marriage and writing partnership would have fallen apart. Seth was playing the field in college, but after a while it seemed like he was just biding his time until Georgie decided she wanted to be with him. Georgie was waiting for him in turn, and while everyone thought they were going to end up together, maybe they should have. Seth seems to have his life more put together. He would have made Georgie a better person if he was allowed to take care of her as much as he wanted. He probably would have forced her to grow up and be more of an adult.
Neal seems like he’s an enabler of Georgie’s inability to adult. He stays home with the kids, and takes care of the house, and cooks and does the laundry and all the other things that allow Georgie to just go to work and come home to spend a few hours with the kids. Neal isn’t very motivated in life, and didn’t pursue the one thing he enjoyed in college. He majored in something he hated, but he could have minored in art. He had opportunities, but never took any of them. If Georgie hadn’t called him on her magic phone, he may have gone on to try one of those different paths and been successful. He’s a good dad, but he could have tried a various amount of things before kids were in the picture. He may not have done well with them, but at least he would have tried.
The book jacket blurb says that while Georgie loves Neal and Neal loves Georgie, it may not be enough. It also asks if Georgie and Neal would be better off if their marriage never happened. BUT WE DON’T GET TO FIND THAT OUT, DO WE? It’s kind of misleading. I think they both would have been happier, probably more successful adults if they had stayed apart. Guess we’ll never know, though.
Also, listening to the narrator sigh the word “Neal” constantly was getting really annoying. (I’m also not sure encouraging your 4-year-old in pretending to be a cat all the time is necessarily a wise decision.)