Up until now, I was one of the few bookish people on earth who had never read anything by Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor & Park and Fangirl have been on my to-read lists for what feels like an eternity. Then during Armchair BEA, I was fortunate enough to win the audiobook version of Rowell’s newest novel, Landline, narrated by Rebecca Lowman. Sorry Eleanor & Park and Fangirl…you’ve been bumped yet again!
Unlike those other two novels, Landline skews towards more adult territory. The narrator is Georgie McCool (that is her real name), a woman on the brink of professional success. She and her best friend Seth have finally sold their idea for a television show, but the network wants the pilot and first few scripts right after Christmas. This means that she won’t be able travel to Omaha as planned with her husband and two young daughters to visit her mother-in-law. For her husband, Neal, it’s the last straw. Their marriage has been on shakier ground than Georgie realized, and Neal takes the girls to his mother’s house for the holidays without Georgie.
It’s a terrible wake-up call to Georgie. Without her family around, she can’t seem to function. She finds herself going more and more to her mother’s house, sleeping in her old bedroom and dragging herself to work. While she’s there, constantly trying to get a hold of Neal, she discovers a secret about her old landline phone: it magically allows her to call back in time and talk to the Neal she dated in college.
I listened to this audiobook on a road trip, and though it does offer a few moments of levity, this was one case of literary marital strife that just felt monotonous. Perhaps it’s because the whole looking back in time in order to appreciate or change what you have thing has been made into many a Rachel McAdams movie (no diss to Rachel; I love her). With the exception of a handful of scenes, I never connected with any of the characters or the plot. Neal, for whatever reason, always comes off as a standoffish and stoic — I dare say assholish — character. Georgie, of course, knows him better than anyone else and can accurately interpret a two millimeter raise of his eyebrows as shock or whatever (I mean, really. Who is that stoic 23.5/7 for the entirety of their lives?). To me, Neal is annoyingly flat.
In retrospect, I think what gets me about this plot is that it ultimately comes down to the tiring question of whether or not women can have it all. Georgie has followed her dreams and worked hard to make them work, but other people have had to make sacrifices along the way in order to make that happen. Those sacrifices have finally paid off, but in being so close to attaining her greatest success yet, she stands to lose everything she holds most dear. Can women have it all?
To which I say: Can we please get a realistic question?
I have a feeling that I would have liked it slightly (just slightly) more if I’d read it in print, mostly because then I’d have been able to read through the monotony at a faster pace. I didn’t not like the book, but I can’t say I liked it either. Mostly, I just felt meh.
Landline was released in July 2014 by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan. I listened to the audiobook version by Macmillan Audio.