Contemporary Fiction / Fluffy Summer Travel Reads / Highly Recommended

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments is a book I wouldn’t have read (or probably even have heard of) if not for my blogging friend Alley over at What Red Read.   When I asked for recommendations for good travel reads, she suggested this one.  And it was perfect.

It’s one of those “it’s not the type of book I normally read BUT…” kinds of books.  It’s a little hard to define.  It’s not romance, it’s not chick lit, but it is a little on the girly side.  It’s lighter than a Jonathan Tropper novel.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and geeky enough for me to recommend it to my husband.  It has characters you’ll feel like you know.  It’s extremely hard to put down.

It’s not a perfect novel by any stretch – it has kind of a contrived storyline and a somewhat less than satisfying conclusion.  But I still recommend it.

Attachments is the story of Lincoln, a late-twenties night-shift IT guy at a local paper in small-town Nebraska.  It’s 1999 (on the verge of Y2K) and the paper has finally given its reporters access to the Internet, but it’s worried about employee misuse.  The company installs filtering software and since Lincoln works the night shift (and is desperate for more work) it becomes his job to read employee emails that get flagged by the software.

Lincoln is pretty uncomfortable reading people’s email and gets even more uncomfortable when he stumbles into some personal conversations between two close friends, Beth and Jennifer.  He gets sucked into their emails so instead of sending them the standard warning, he just deletes the questionable emails.  Then he develops kind of an e-crush on Beth, but the problem is 1) she’s in a serious though dysfunctional relationship; and 2) if he ever meets her, how can he explain why he knows so much about her?

Here’s how it starts:

From: Jennifer

Subject: Where are you?

Would it kill you to get here before noon?  I’m sitting here among the shards of my life as I know it, and you… if I know you, you just woke up.  You’re probably eating oatmeal and watching Sally Jessy Raphael.  Email me when you get in, before you do anything else.  Don’t even read the comics.

Beth to Jennifer: Okay, I’m putting you before the comics, but make it quick.  I’ve got an ongoing argument with Derek about whether For Better or Worse is set in Canada, and today may be the day they prove me right.

Jennifer to Beth: I think I’m pregnant.

Beth to Jennifer: What? Why do you think you’re pregnant?

Jennifer: I had three drinks last Saturday.

Beth: I think we need to have a little talk about the birds and the bees.  That’s not exactly how it happens.

Can Rowell pull off a book that’s half-written in email?  Yes.  It’s a format that works – the email exchanges are sometimes flip and catty, sometimes long and thoughtful, but you never think, no one talks like this.

Lincoln, Beth, and Jennifer are in their late 20’s and their situations seem pretty realistic for that age.  It’s a time when you’re figuring out your career and your personal life and making lots of big decisions.  You’re an adult but no one thinks you’re ridiculous if you don’t know what you want to do, who you want to marry, whether you want kids or not.

I loved Lincoln.  He’s a mess – he lives with his mother and still pines for the high school girlfriend who broke his heart.  He hates his job and has no idea what he wants to do for a living.  He has a good group of friends that he plays D&D with but otherwise has no social skills whatsoever. (Note: Rowell is not bagging on D&D playing in this book.)

Reading these emails pushes Lincoln to explore his life and try new things, and that’s the thing you’ll like best about him.  He makes himself go to a club to meet women, and while the meeting-women part doesn’t go so well, a new friendship results.  He starts working out and discovers he enjoys it.  He takes a lot of risks with his personal life but still tries to be a good friend to the people who have always been there for him.  He shares his dinner with the vending machine lady.  He’s a mess but he’s a likeable mess.

And while Beth has a good job and good friends, we learn through her emails that Beth might be even more of a mess than Lincoln is.

As the situation gets more tangled and harder for Lincoln to resolve, the story becomes whether they will meet, and what will Lincoln tell her, and can she possibly trust a guy who’s been reading her personal emails.  It’s a knot you know the author will have trouble unraveling, and the fun of this book is in watching her try.

There are a ton of 90’s references – songs, movies, games, etc.  Sometimes that can be annoying in a book but in this one it’s realistic and adds to the humor.  (It helps that I was exactly their age in 1999.)  One of my favorite exchanges goes like this:

Jennifer to Beth:

Subject: Do you want to hang out tonight?

I need a break from Mitch.  He’s still in a funk about our successful use of birth control.

Beth: Can’t.  I’m finally going to see Eyes Wide Shut.

Jennifer: Ech.  I don’t like Tom Cruise.

Beth: Me neither.  But I usually like Tom Cruise movies.

Jennifer: Me too… Huh, maybe I do like Tom Cruise.  But I hate feeling pressured to find him attractive.  I don’t.

Beth: Nobody does.  It’s a lie perpetuated by the American media.  Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts.

Jennifer:  Men don’t like Julia Roberts?

Beth: Nope.  Her teeth scare them.

Jennifer: Good to know.

I immediately turned to my husband to confirm the accuracy of the statement, and guess what?  Absolutely true.  There’s another part of the book where they reference a song by the Sundays and my husband was able to pull up the song and play it for me.  Now it’s “that song” we read about in this book.

There’s a LOT of pregnancy discussion as you can tell from the excerpts I’ve posted.  Not my favorite topic to read about but I can live with it.  After all, pregnancy is a number one concern for most women of that age, whether it’s having a baby or not having one.  Beth wants lots of kids with her commitment-phobic boyfriend.  Jennifer doesn’t want kids but her husband does.   I’m a little mixed about how it all goes down, but it’s still a good story.

I loved this book.  I remember reading this in our hotel in Rome and having trouble putting it down.  That should tell you something.

5 thoughts on “Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

  1. I’m so happy you enjoyed it!! I’m nervous whenever I make a book recommendation, no matter how sure I am that you’d like it.

    I agree, it’s not a perfect novel and the ending is sorta contrived, though at that point I was so in love with the characters I didn’t even care.

  2. Pingback: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell | Chachic's Book Nook

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell | Jen's Pen Den

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (5/5) | Taking on a World of Words

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