BY RAINBOW ROWELL
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 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.
I’m pretty certain that I’ll never be disappointed in a book with Rainbow Rowell’s name on its front cover. Actually, disappointed is too mundane of a word to use. In reality, I know that I’ll always be blown away and have happy tears leaking from my eyes and I’ll be just a bit clearer about my life because Rainbow Rowell’s name is on the front cover of a book. And because her words fill the pages between the front and back cover. And because she creates real people who are you and me and even that odd man who lives across the street.
Landline is the story of Georgie and Neal who have been married for 15 years with two adorable little girls. A big break for screenwriter Georgie leaves her home alone over Christmas while stay-at-home dad Neal takes the girls to his hometown of Omaha. Deep down Georgie knows she’s making the wrong decision, but after years of being enabled by Neal to do whatever she wants, she makes the wrong decision anyway. This doesn’t stop her from slowly falling apart and hiding out at her mother’s house when she finds herself incapable of going home. Unable to get Neal to take her calls and her cell phone battery neglected to its final death, Georgie finds an old rotary phone deep in the closet of her childhood bedroom, plugs it in, and finally gets Neal on the phone.
Except, the Neal who picks up is the Neal she’d broken up with a little over 15 years ago. The one who she fought with and the one who left her to go home to Omaha for Christmas, leaving her heart shattered. The Neal that exists in 1998, not 2013. Over the course of the next week as Georgie slowly breaks down, sure that her marriage is over, she dials up her “magic” phone and reconnects with the younger Neal, remembering all the reasons she fell in love with him and why he (and her girls) are more important than anything else she’ll do with her life.
Landline was impossible to put down. I read it in one day, my eyes and head pounding from the headache from hell, yet this story would not be denied. The casts of characters are full of life, from Petunia the pregnant Pug who loves to sleep in the dryer, to Georgie’s mother who is married to her former pool boy (Kendrick, who’s also African-American and older than Georgie by only three years), to Georgie’s insecure, teenage sister, Heather, who eats an outrageous amount of pizza because she’s in love with the person bringing it to her door…and I could go on.
But, it’s Georgie and Neal that grip your heart and make you remember/believe in love. With the book told from Georgie’s POV, she’s easy to get to know and love and sometimes want to scream at. But, it’s Neal that sneaks up on you and gets you looking at your own husband while he sleeps, nudging you to make sure you let him know how much you love him. And then you realize that word Landline is not just the magic phone that stars in the book, it’s that line that keeps you grounded, that holds you firm to life and the things that are important.
These days I rarely hand out five stars, but this one, and Rainbow Rowell, they definitely deserve it.