Let me get my fangirling out of the way. I really adore both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl. Those two have permanent places on my favorites shelf, and I recommend them to just about anyone who will listen to me for half a second (speaking of which...if you haven’t read them, THEN WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! GO READ THEM). Since it’s an adult novel, I was afraid I wouldn’t love Landline the way I love the other two. I usually prefer YA to adult novels, and this is often because the problems and ideas in YA still apply to me at 21 years old. It’s rare for me to find an adult novel that I can relate to and care about like I do with YA. So I was nervous about starting Landline, worried that the book wouldn’t stand up to my love for Rowell’s YA novels.
Once again, Rainbow Rowell has proven her strange ability to get right at my heart and soul. Landline is definitely an adult novel, but it completely destroyed my fears of being unable to relate to its themes and ideas. Its themes include marriage, regret, first love versus lasting love, and figuring out whether the life you’ve been living for so many years is actually what’s right for you. Rowell has packed this book with so much character, personality, and emotion that it’s nearly overflowing. It’s nearly impossible notto find something to relate to in this book. The characters feel like close friends of yours by the end; you might even fancy calling them up to invite them over for dinner and a game night, if you could just remember their phone number.
The book follows Georgie McCool, a TV comedy writer in Los Angeles, and her husband Neal, the quiet stay-at-home dad and artist. When Georgie tells Neal she can’t go to Omaha with him to spend Christmas with his family, Neal simply packs up the kids and leaves for Omaha without Georgie, leaving her lonely and worried that her marriage is finally over. While staying with her mother over the holidays, Georgie discovers that an old phone in her bedroom has the power to call Neal in the past, back before they ever got married. Georgie has to figure out if she’s supposed to save her marriage or if maybe they would both be happier in the long run if they never got married in the first place.
Georgie is hilarious, sweet, and so busy and caught up in life that she doesn’t always stop to think of everyone around her. She loves her husband, her kids, and her job, but it’s hard for her when any of these things clash together. Neal is quieter and more reserved. Emotion doesn’t radiate off of him constantly like it radiates off of Georgie, and even getting a true smile from him is an achievement. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Neal is deep and thoughtful. He’s an artist, and though he may not always show his emotion plainly (be it anger or happiness or anything else), there is no doubt that he contains multitudes.
What surprised me most about this novel was that I related to it separately from how I normally relate to YA novels. This is one of the first books I’ve read that related to my life as an adult specifically. I connected very strongly with Georgie, especially with her concerns about being a good wife while still taking care of her own hopes and dreams in life. Though not exactly carefree, she’s still able to really experience and enjoy life, an enviable feat. She’s thoughtful almost to a fault, overthinking just about everything she does, trying to figure out the right thing to do. It’s difficult for her to deny her own happiness, even if the things that make her happy are making her husband unhappy. She cares deeply about her family and her job, and she tries her hardest to be who everyone expects her to be and make everyone else happy. She appealed to me quite deeply, getting at the heart of some of my own fears about adulthood and being a good person. The book is witty and filled with the kind of romantic moments you can’t help but smile at while reading. It manages to be both hilarious and sweet, sometimes in the same moment. It makes you reconsider the importance of love versus happiness in a marriage and in life; if you love someone, what happens if you can’t make them happy? Is it best to let them go or keep trying? Is it better to be unhappy with the one you love or happy with someone you don’t love? Rowell examines these questions thoroughly and beautifully.
Overall, Landline is a Rainbow Rowell book through and through: it makes you feel something, and you aren’t quite the same person by the time you turn the last page.