Marriages are hard. Of course Georgie McCool knows that. She’s been in love with Neal since they were in college, but they’ve been struggling to keep up their 70% happiness for some time now. This could be in part to Georgie working herself half to death on two television shows; one currently running, the other starving for a greenlight. But it isn’t until she gets her big break, her greenlight, and is forced to stay in California while the other 3/4’ths of her family heads to snowy Omaha that she realizes this marriage train has been derailing for quite some time.
Landline, which is Rainbow Rowell’s fourth novel, is a change of pace in that it’s generally for adults as opposed to her previous novels which have all been young adult. The story goes that Georgie McCool is a hot shot television writer living in LA. She has the job of her dreams and her script for her dream show has just been greenlit. The only problem: her and her writing partner Seth, need to have four episodes written shortly after Christmas. The reason this is a problem is because Georgie is supposed to go with her husband Neal to Omaha to see his family for Christmas and she very well can’t do that if she in LA working. So Neal makes the decision for her. He’ll take their two girls to Nebraska (state of snow and corn), spend Christmas with his family, while Georgie spends the preceding week and holiday in LA working with Seth to write the necessary episodes for their show.
What at first seems like a fair compromise, weighs heavily on Georgie as she begins to miss her kids and husband, wishing there were another way for her to fix the issue. After a few days pass of not talking to Neal (because he’s notorious for not answering the phone and doesn’t use texting), Georgie goes to her mom’s house distraught. Apparently her mom had already talked to Neal and has herself convinced Neal has taken the kids and left her. As Georgie tries her hardest to ignore her mom she finds herself hiding in her childhood bedroom, sleeping in her old bed. One night she decides to try and get in touch with Neal on the landline. She lugs an old yellow rotary phone out of her closet and dials his parents house in Omaha. Only when someone picks up on the other end it’s not present day, but Neal from 1998. Georgie tries her hardest to convince herself she hasn’t just stumbled onto a time travel telephone, but she clearly has. Now the only thing she wonders is: is she meant to repair their marriage by talking to past Neal or would they be better off if they never got married?
While Landline is a contemporary adult novel, it’s still about relationships and that’s sticking with the same theme as Rowell’s international hit Eleanor and Park from last year. Rowell’s writing is smooth and easy to read; the dialogue is snappy and believable. But most importantly is the storyline featuring Georgie and Neal. The landline concept is fantastic. To give someone, whose marriage is in trouble, the chance to repair it by talking to their partner in the past. Awesome. However, the important piece of this fine novel is the social critique that marriage is, well, hard. Numerous times, while deep in conversation, Georgie and Neal they say that they’ll try harder or that their love will bring them together. Georgie constantly promises to herself that she’ll be better; that she’ll try harder, but the matter of the fact remains that their marriage came to be due to both of their actions. Georgie because she focused more on work than her family, Neal because he just didn’t say anything because he was comfortable. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t love her daughters, but she freely admits that Neal does more of the childrearing than she does.
Landline is a hilarious and heartbreaking novel, highlighted by the true tests that marriages put on human beings. It’s moving honesty about the trials and tribulations of partnership should not be taken lightly, even given some of it’s thematic material. Rainbow Rowell has proven herself to be a successful writer after receiving universal positive reception with her 2013 young adult love story of Eleanor and Park (a novel still hard to come across in libraries, even). If you’re not buying this novel, my best advice is to get yourself on the already mile long wait list at your library, because Landline is going to be the smash hit of the summer.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 – Landline is an ode to marriage and partnership in the best ways possible. It shows how truly hard, but valuable they can be. Rowell weaves a fantastic story highlighted with interesting characters and an exciting sci-fi concept that proves incredibly important to an already great story.