Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineI’ve read four of Rainbow Rowell’s books and enjoyed every one of them. It’s hard to compare them, so I won’t. Rowell’s previous books have all been about the beginnings of a relationship, but this one is about what happens to that relationship across years of marriage.

Georgie McCool is a writer of television comedies who gets her big break right before Christmas, only it means working Christmas week to put scripts together. And that means canceling a trip to Omaha to spend the holiday with her husband’s family. Georgie is caught squarely in the middle of her dream job and her husband’s anger.

Neal takes the kids to Nebraska, and when he stops answering the phone, Georgie is left to wonder whether her marriage could be over.

Rowell is good at writing “light” fiction that raises serious issues. Like, is it okay for a wife to put her career ahead of husband and children? Is this a gender issue or simply a marriage issue? Is it okay that her best friend is a guy, and that she spends more time with him than with her husband? Is it okay that her husband seems to have so much unresolved anger towards her but doesn’t express his feelings? And, is it possible for a married couple to recapture the honesty and emotion that brought them together in the first place?

If two people want really different things, is love enough?

For me, this book raised a lot of issues but I can’t say it resolved them, at least not in a way I found satisfying.

For one thing, when Georgie’s on the cusp of realizing a lifelong career dream, shouldn’t that count for something? I’m not saying career should come before marriage, but then I don’t work in a creative field where I might get one shot to do something I’ve been dreaming about for years. Neal’s response to Georgie needing to skip a holiday trip seems a huge overreaction.

And, while Georgie clearly loves her husband, and he loves her, his anger towards her seems manipulative, and it also seems to have been a recurring problem throughout their marriage. But then Georgie is also pretty selfish. Neal clearly has issues she hasn’t taken seriously, like whether he’s happy living in California to follow her career dreams, and whether she spends too much time with her writing partner. And what does it mean that she’s so much more comfortable with Seth than with her husband?

Like Georgie, I’ve been married 13 years, but while we’ve had our up days and down days, I’ve never once felt either of us was discontented or that anything we argue about was unresolvable. In fact, I’ve found marriage to be (mostly) surprisingly easy. At the end of every day I’m happy to come home, happy with my choice.

Maybe Georgie and Neal’s issues are more about communications rather than real unhappiness. That, I can identify with. I always struggle to communicate my concerns rather than internalizing them – but I know if I don’t say what I’m upset about, it will just blow up into something ugly. Georgie and Neal don’t seem to have learned this.

The “landline” plot device is interesting although at times it made my head hurt… but I won’t say more.

Like Rowell’s other books, this is a well-written and engaging read that also makes you think about relationships. This isn’t my favorite of her books, but if you like Rowell it’s worth a read.

  5 comments for “Landline by Rainbow Rowell

  1. December 11, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I have never read this author, but this book definitely makes me want to. Marriage is damn hard, and I love a book that shows that- as I look down the barrel of my 20th anniversary!

    • December 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Yes, I agree, and you should definitely read something by this author. All of her books are good, though I think Eleanor and Park is her best.

      • December 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm

        That is on my Kindle waiting for me. I originally bought it for my daughter and she never read it. Lots to read!

  2. December 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I read and enjoyed this book earlier this year. I feel like Rowell really earned all of her moments in the book and I was happy that not everything is neatly resolved at the end of the book.

    • December 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I agree about liking that not everything was resolved.

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