Tag Archives: Rebecca Lowman

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell (3/5)

5 Jun

I waited a long time to read this one because I didn’t know if I would like it. I found a copy at the library book sale. It had been taken out of circulation after the book started being checked out less. I hadn’t found time to read it so I’m just now getting around the audio version of the book. I was wasn’t completely right about my feelings of it, but it is probably my least favorite Rowell book.

Cover image via Goodreads

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Other books by Rainbow Rowell reviewed on this blog:

Attachments 5/5
Fangirl 3/5
Carry On 5/5
Eleanor & Park 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

I’ve read Rowell’s fantasy and I’ve read her realistic fiction and liked both. I wasn’t ready for a hybrid, though. The whole magical phone thing really got me. In Carry On, I was ready for magic and how it would affect the story. In this story, it wasn’t explained and there wasn’t a culture that normalized it. It was too much for me to buy into. I liked Georgie and Neal and Seth and Heather and all the other characters, but the phone really ruined it for me. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief in a phone that talks to the past.

Rowell does an amazing job of building realistic characters and that’s why she kills contemporary fiction. I thought all of the characters were very realistic and I really enjoyed Seth. I feel like I was supposed to hate him, but he reminded me of friends from college and it was hard to dislike him. The little girls were great and Heather was super fun. As much as Georgie’s mom seemed like a caricature, I’ve met women like her. It was all great.

Seth was my favorite character. I liked his confidence and sense of humor but also his dedication to Georgie and their show. I would have been one of the girls swooning over him from a distance in college. Spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph! Skip to the next to avoid it. I didn’t like how he admitted having feelings for Georgie at the end. That really bothered me. It was implied but I don’t think it ever needed to be spoken and I think it would really have ruined the relationship between him and Georgie which put their future success at risk. I wish he hadn’t said anything and it seemed a bit out of character for him to do it.

I could understand where Georgie’s problems came from. Even having only been married four years, I can see how the magic of dating is not a daily occurrence in my marriage. I’m sure this is not uncommon. I hope I’m never as blindly committed to my job as Georgie, but I can see how it would happen. This is a very relatable problem and I hope it doesn’t take a magic phone to solve it if I ever do run into a similar situation. I don’t think I can count on one.

Rainbow Rowell
Image via the author’s website

I liked Heather’s story (spoilers, again!). I think it would be really hard to tell my mom if I thought I was gay and the way she handled it seemed real to me. It didn’t surprise me that her mom already knew, either. The pugs being born bringing the girls together was cute. I liked that touch.

If the phone had been removed, I would have liked the story a lot more. I think it could have been. I think there could have been some home videos or letters or pictures that stirred up memories and gave Georgie the same sense of urgency and reflections that the phone did. It took the book into magical realism and that’s a genre I don’t much care for.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Rebecca Lowman. I thought she did well with the girls’ voices and the guys without being distracting. Sometimes a man’s voice is too over-the-top in an audiobook and with how much Neal talked in this one, it’s good that it wasn’t. She gave the women in the story just enough difference to make them distinguishable, too.

Georgie didn’t mean to put her job before her family, but that’s what happened. I don’t think our priorities get that out of whack on purpose. I know there are times I’ve put school ahead of my husband and it was never an intentional decision. The trick is to recognize when you’ve done this and make things right. It might not be as extreme as what Georgie went through, but saying you’re sorry is always important.

Writer’s Takeaway: Rowell’s contemporary characters knock it out of the park again! I think adding a fantastical element was a bit of a risk for her and it didn’t work for me. She’s had great success with contemporary fiction and I don’t know what made her deviate from that. Personally, I hope she doesn’t again. It’s risky for a writer to move to another genre. Rowell has crossed over adult and YA but maybe magical realism is a bit too far for her.

I liked the book but the premise wasn’t for me. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Landline – Rainbow Rowell | the book goddess
Review #3: Landline by Rainbow Rowell | forwards and bookwords
Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell | Jen’s Pen Den

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