Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell   2014, St. Martin’s Press   308 pages

Thirty-something Georgie McCool is living her dream. She is married to her college sweetheart, and they have two smart, beautiful, daughters. She and her writing partner, Seth, are the lead writers for a wildly successful sitcom. Best of all, her show, the show she and Seth have been writing since college, may finally get the green light – if they can turn out four scripts in nine days…during Christmas.

Georgie reluctantly breaks the news to Neal. She absolutely cannot leave LA to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for the holidays. She expected Neal’s anger, but she never thought he would take the girls and go to Omaha without her.

After several days of complete radio silence, Georgie begins to panic. Neal is not taking or returning her calls. According to his mother, he is spending time with the girl next door, who also happens to be his ex-fiancée. Even her daughters are too busy to talk to her when she calls. Seeking comfort, Georgie retreats to her mother’s house.

To make matters worse, Georgie’s iPhone dies. Desperate to contact her husband, she digs the old rotary phone out of the closet in her childhood bedroom, plugs it in and dials. Surprisingly the call goes through, and Neal’s mother puts him on the line. A few minutes into the conversation, Georgie realizes that she is talking to 1998 Neal. She is talking to the Neal that left her for a week during Christmas break after a fight. She is talking to the Neal that drove nonstop from Omaha to LA on Christmas Eve to propose to Georgie on her mother’s doorstep. This Neal does not know how unhappy their marriage has become. This Neal is still full of possibilities and hope, if only Georgie can convince him that they belong together.

At first, Georgie sees her line to the past as a chance to reset and make things better in the present. She is certain that she must convince Neal to make that crazy cross-country drive on Christmas Eve. As they talk and she remembers why she loved Neal so desperately, Georgie sees with a newfound clarity how unhappy their life together has made Neal.

Suddenly, all bets are off. Perhaps the purpose of this line to the past is not to reset their lives together, but rather to give Neal the do-over Georgie believes he deserves.

Rainbow Rowell has penned an easy-to-read page-turner of a story that packs a big punch. Georgie’s reflections on marriage ring true as she questions whether love is enough to build a life together. Landline is funny, sweet and, at times, painful. I could not put it down.

Rainbow Rowell’s books have been on my to-read list for some time now, but I have not gotten around to picking one up. Now that I know what I have been missing, I will be reading her backlist ASAP!

Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Head of Branch Services. She may be reached at 336-570-6730 or hhhall@alamancelibraries.org.