Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Landline: Can a Magic Phone Save a Marriage?

You may have heard about the trick in this novel already, and it's a good one, to be sure: What if you discovered a "magic" phone that allowed you to talk to your spouse in the past? Would it offer you fresh insight into your current marital problems, or would it just make things more complicated, and possibly force you to realize things were actually broken beyond repair?

Those questions, and the magic phone gimmick that launches them, make Rainbow Rowell's Landline really intriguing and fun – but the soul of this novel is the very simple, yet impossible to answer, question: Is love enough?

If you think that sounds a bit ooey-gooey, you're not wrong. It is. This is part love story, part story of that love story beginning to fail. And so something like this may usually have been a solid pass for me, but I took a chance on this — well outside my comfort zone — because several Book Rioters read it for the July Riot Read, and most really liked it, even the dudes. And I loved it!

I loved it because Rowell is a super cool writer — her characters are awesome. They feel like people you may know, and while they're often neurotic and quirky, smart and witty, or mysterious and humorless, you still want to get a beer with them. Her dialogue is authentic and often funny. And the story keeps you guessing — you know what you hope happens, but you're never quite sure what will.

The two principles are Neal and Georgie, late 30s parents of two girls, who live in Los Angeles. Neal is a stay-at-home dad, and Georgie is a TV writer for a crappy prime time comedy. But when she and her longtime writing partner get an offer to pitch their own show, they jump at it. Only problem: Georgie was supposed to go to Omaha with Neal and their kids for Christmas with Neal's mother. Neal is pissed! So he takes the girls and goes anyway, and Georgie stays behind to work on her show. Is this the nail in the coffin for the marriage? Or will the magic phone (which doesn't appear until about page 70, and until you get there, you have to be a little patient) be the magic marriage-cure a magic phone should be?

If you're still on the fence, check out this list of books to try if you've loved Landline. For me, this was more a reverse-engineering process, as I really liked all four of these books (especially The Financial Lives of the Poets and Domestic Violets), so I figured Landline was a pretty "safe" calculated risk. And it panned out. Highly recommended!


  1. I actually just read this yesterday, but I was already familiar with Rowell's writing - it consistently feels like she knows people, and her characters are so very real. Quite enjoyable indeed.

    1. That's a great way to put it - that she "knows" people. I mean, all writers would claim they know their characters, but it feels especially true in this novel.

  2. I'm picking this one up when I go to see Rowell at a book event here - can't wait!