Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 4.75 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?"

Review:  Oh Ms. Rowell, if I wasn't sure before, now I'm absolutely convinced that I'm in love with you.

This book tells the story of a married couple who love each other, and yet who are deeply unhappy.  Love isn't Georgie and Neal's problem, and it never was.  Rather, the problems are a lack of focus and attention and communication and affection and appreciation.  So, basically, Georgie and Neal could be any of us.  Through Georgie and Neal, this book asks the question: What do we do when we have love but not happiness?

Everyone knows that marriages take work.  And a lot of people know how quickly a relationship can deteriorate, and yet often people are surprised when it happens to them.  This book, told from Georgie's point of view, starts at the moment when Georgie realizes just how bad things are between her and Neal, and follows her desperate desire to heal their marriage, all without knowing whether or not it's too late.

The whole magic phone bit could have gone catastrophically wrong, but, as always, Rowell pulled it off.  Although possessing a phone that can call the past is a very supernatural element, this book still felt very much like realistic, contemporary fiction.  Don't let the magic phone scare you.  Trust me, you'll believe it too. 

I always adore Rowell's characters, and this book was no exception.  Georgie isn't perfect, but she is relatable, and I empathized with her frustrations, her worries, and her struggle to reconcile her career with her family.  I loved reading about a married couple who isn't dealing with Huge Problems (addiction, cheating, abuse, etc.) but who still have really huge problems.  Plain old neglect can be just as destructive as anything else.  Georgie and Neal have both made a lot of little mistakes, and, at the culmination of all those little mistakes, are now in a mess of a relationship.  Through watching them struggle to get back up I was reminded of why we struggle.  Because family is important.  It matters.  Few things are more important than how we treat our spouse.  It's worth it to keep trying.

If I could change one thing about my reading experience, I would change when I read it.  I read it in August, and wish I had read it in December.  The whole book takes place the week before Christmas, and I would have loved to have a little bit of the holiday spirit I felt in the books mirror reality.  But, hey, the book was still good in August.

On the whole, this book was tremendously good.  I found myself shaking my head in awe of Rowell's writing prowess on multiple occasions.  Just to try and convince you (in case you need convincing) I've included a few of my favorite quotes from the book for you to admire:

"And she knew he was unhappy.
That was just a fact.
That wasn't Georgie being melodramatic or paranoid or delusional.  That was Georgie being honest.
Neal wasn't happy.  Neal hadn't been happy in a long time.
He didn't complain about it.  He didn't say, "I'm unhappy." ...He just wore it, breathed it.  Held it between them.  Rolled away from it in his sleep."
-Landline pg. 86

"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."
-Landline pg. 201

"Georgie was pretty sure that having kids was the worst thing you could do to a marriage.  Sure, you could survive it.  You could survive a giant boulder falling on your head - that didn't mean it was good for you.
Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy... And they took it first.  They had right of first refusal on everything you had to offer.
At the end of the day - after work, after trying to spend some sort of meaningful time with Alice and Noomie - Georgie was usually too tired to make things right with Neal before they fell asleep.  So things stayed wrong.  And the girls just kept giving them something else to talk about, something else to focus on...
Something else to love.
When Georgie and Neal were smiling at each other, it was almost always over Alice and Noomie's heads.
And Georgie wasn't sure she'd risk changing that... even if she could.
Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation."
-Landline pg. 220-221

"Georgie couldn't change the past - she could only talk at it.  If Georgie had a proper time machine, maybe she could actually fix her marriage.  She could go back to the moment that everything started to go bad, and change course.  
Things didn't go bad between Georgie and Neal.  Things were always bad - and always good.  Their marriage was like a set of scales constantly balancing itself.  And then, at some point, when neither of them was paying attention, they'd tipped so far over into bad, they'd settled there.  Now only an enormous amount of good would shift them back."
-Landline pg. 219-220

 Are you convinced yet?  Read it.

Bottom Line:  Highly recommended to anyone who has been in a serious relationship for more than 5 years, particularly if children are involved.  (Those not in a relationship and/or without kids will still enjoy this book immensely, because this is an immensely enjoyable book.  I'm just saying that it is more applicable to those who fall into the "married with kids" category, and they will more easily be able to apply its lessons.  But, honestly, I'd still happily throw this book at anyone.)

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