Friday, September 19, 2014

#47 [2014/CBR6] "Landline" by Rainbow Rowell

"You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten--in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems." (201)

Georgie McCool is in her mid-thirties, married to her college sweetheart, Neal, with two young daughters and a successful career. But her marriage is strained. Her husband isn't happy: he doesn't like her work, and he doesn't like her focus on work. Things come to a head when a life-changing work opportunity forces Georgie to skip the family Christmas trip to Neal's mother's house in Omaha. Neal is angry and isn't talking to her, and Georgie is alone over Christmas.

I've read all of Rainbow Rowell's books, so it was a no-brainer that I'd be reading Landline (2014) as soon as I could get it out of the library. Even though I only started reading Rowell last year, I feel like I've grown up with her. I've read her stories about high school adolescents, college kids, after-college angsty adults, and now full-on adults--settled down and married with children. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, and I enjoyed it. Neal and Georgie feel like real people with a real relationship. I understood who they were, why they were together, and why they have problems. I felt a visceral connection with their courtship, heartbreak, and fights. There is no doubt that by the end I was emotionally invested in these characters, as I have been with all of Rowell's books.

However, unlike other Rowell books, this one took longer for me to get into. I was about one hundred pages in and terrified that I was going to dislike this one. I imagined the whole of Cannonballers rising up to smite me and my poor taste down. Fortunately, soon after, I began to understand the characters better and ended the book with no regrets. Like everyone else, I would definitely recommend this one.

One of the main problems I had in connecting with this book was the unexpected fantasy element. I was completely unprepared for it, and it took me out of the story. At first I didn't understand what was happening and thought I'd accidentally skipped some pages. Then I was distracted by the inevitable details and problems that come when you mess with time. I had a hard time thinking of Georgie and Neal's relationship as "real" when something so crazy and unexplained was happening in an otherwise completely normal world.

However, despite the confusion of time traveling phone lines, it was interesting to see the different Neal (younger and older), especially with his attitude and willingness to work at a relationship. Younger Neal was more open and less jaded, while the older Neal had gone through so much with Georgie that he was more closed off. If only we all could go back to where we started when our relationships become harder. It also added some tension to the ending. I didn't actually think that Georgie's kids were going to disappear, but Georgie's fear of losing everything, and her complete disconnect from the outside world in the airport added some tension and drama to the ending. I still wonder why Rowell chose to break out of reality for this book, but the characters and their feelings eventually grounded it enough for me to enjoy.

"No," the woman answered. "Better stay where we are. They use seat assignments to identify bodies." (274)--This line made me laugh.

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