Published by St. Martin's Press on July 8, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Contemporary Romance
Source: I Bought It
Reading Challenges: Beat the Backlist 2019, Monthly Motif 2019
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has 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 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?
There’s just something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing that just clicks with me. Something undefinable. I’ve loved every book that she has released and Landline is no different.
This is a strange one because it is definitely an adult contemporary novel but it has a little bit of science fiction thrown into the mix. Although the characters themselves do not travel through time, through some unknown phenomena the main character Georgie ends up conversing with her husband in the past – before they were even married.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. First, a bit of background. Georgie McCool is a sitcom writer. She earns a living from writing whilst her husband Neal stays at home and looks after their two young children. It’s a situation which made sense to them in the beginning but is beginning to turn fraught.
Georgie loves Neal and he loves her in return. But their marriage has been struggling for a while, even if neither of them have actually admitted this out loud. Tensions reach boiling point when Georgie and her writing partner and best friend Seth are offered a chance in a million – the chance to have their own television show – a show they have conceptualized for years. The only trouble is, this means that Georgie will have to stay in LA over the festive period even though they had previously made plans to celebrate Christmas with Neal’s widowed mother in Nebraska.
Thinking that they can just put the visit off for a few weeks, Georgie is stunned when Neal states he is going to go without her with their children. She finds it hard to say goodbye to them but cannot give up on her dream and opts to stay behind to work on the scripts which the network have demanded.
Georgie is not used to spending time at home without Neal and her two girls. She finds herself visiting her mother, stepfather and much younger sister frequently to try and stave off the loneliness she feels, along with the growing realization that maybe her marriage isn’t going to stay the course.
Georgie tries desperately to get ahold of Neal but a comedy of errors transpires, and Georgie and Neal are unable to connect via their cell phones. As a last ditch attempt, Georgie dials the landline at her mother-in-law’s house and ends up speaking to Neal… from the past!
I knew what I was going into when I picked up this book but I wasn’t sure how this was actually going to work or how much suspension of disbelief I would have to employ! The idea of connecting with a loved one from the past was definitely an intriguing premise though and I’m happy to say it worked better than I ever thought it would.
I enjoy fantastical elements in books but sometimes in a book that seems to mostly be contemporary and true-to-life it doesn’t always work for me but I actually fell in love with past Neal and I could see why Georgie had a revelation after being able to speak to the man she originally fell in love with and was able to remember all the happy times and all the times Neal was there for her and sacrificed for her and their family.
“Nobody’s lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen – because you love each other.”
The only small complaint I have with this is that sometimes it was hard to reconcile past Neal with present Neal. I would have liked to have spent a bit more time with present Neal but this is only a very minor niggle.
I loved Georgie and Neal’s connection: the one that Georgie rediscovered by speaking to Neal from the past and it was great seeing the flashbacks to the time when they were both young and first falling in love.
The story peaks when Georgie and Neal share a scene together. Slowly, Georgie begins to see how much she has taken Neal for granted – how selflessly he has supported her career and what a good father he is to their two young daughters (who were just so adorable – I’m not normally a fan of kids in my fiction but Alice and Noomi were just so delightfully weird and cute!)
Georgie starts to feel that Neal would perhaps have been better off without her and tries to derail his past self from marrying her – the Neal she is speaking to in the past hasn’t yet proposed (he was due to do so in about a week’s time – after a humongous fight where they very nearly did break up for good). She attempts to change the past by trying to convince Neal that they would be better off apart – because sometimes love just isn’t enough. Watching her trying to push away her soulmate was devastating.
However, as Christmas draws ever closer (and still unable to get present Neal on the phone) Georgie begins to regret trying to turn Neal away and realizes drastic action may just be required. I was so happy when Georgie finally got hold of her senses and realizes just how much she took Neal’s love and consideration for granted.
Georgie takes ownership of the fact that there were massive cracks in their marriage but that it was mostly down to her. It felt brutally real and the emotions were just so raw and gutting. I felt so much for Georgie even though a lot of their problems were of her own making, I couldn’t help but relate to her and wanted her to make it up to Neal and to herself as well. Although lot of it was down to her own undoing -Georgie shows massive growth throughout the book and tries to rectify and learn from her mistakes. I love characters who own up to their mistakes. It makes me like them even more.
Her situation was heart-breaking and it was hard watching Georgie’s life unravel before her eyes but her denouement was so heartfelt and earned it was worth all the pain it took to get there.
“How could she ever doubt that he loved her? When loving her was what he did better than all the things he did beautifully?”
This was another enthralling novel from Rainbow Rowell. I didn’t quite love it as much as Attachments, Fangirl or Carry On (my ultimate favourite of her books!) but it was on a par with Eleanor and Park which is high praise indeed because I very much loved that book and it holds a special place in my heart as the first Rowell book I read!
I would highly recommend Landline for people who love a great contemporary romance but aren’t afraid to get caught up in the angst (because there is plenty of that to be found in this book!) Such a great read and definitely one I will go back to when I need a little magic in my life. 😉
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: