Book Club: Landline
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve read a few of Rainbow Rowell’s books and I’ve loved them. Eleanor and Park made me cry. I couldn’t put down Attachments and I read it in about 4 hours. I had VERY high expectations of Landline. It’s a Rainbow Rowell book. About a TV show writer. With lots of pop culture references. I mean, it’s all excellent things, how could it be bad? Right?
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?
Related post: Book Club: Attachments
I don’t know how to ease into this so I’m just going to come out and say it directly: I hated this book. I just couldn’t stand it.
Georgie McCool is a writer of a funny and popular television show in Los Angeles. Her Nebraskan husband, Neal, doesn’t love living in LA and when the book starts, their marriage has been rocky. When Georgie is given an opportunity to write a pilot for a show she’s been wanting to do her entire life, Georgie makes the painful decision to spend Christmas in LA by herself instead of going to Nebraska with her husband and two daughters. Neal treats her coldly until he leaves where he doesn’t call her and “conveniently” (in my opinion) is unable to come to the phone every time she calls. Georgie spends a few days at her mother’s home. She uses the landline in her childhood bedroom to reach out to Neal, only to find that she’s talking to the Neal from the past - in fact, the Neal who is about a week away from proposing to Georgie. It’s up to Georgie to make sure the proposal happens.
So with a cute, romantic plot and a bit of circumstantial sci-fi involved, you may think, what’s not to like? Well for starters, I HATE Neal. From the very beginning he’s rude to Georgie, even when Rowell tries to cover his rudeness with a “cute gruffy, grumpiness.” No, he’s just a rude person who flirts with Georgie, even though he has a girlfriend, and gets mean and ignores her when she talks to her best (guy) friend. As someone who has guy friends, if my boyfriend ever acted the way Neal did to me, I would leave him.
Related post: Eleanor and Park
I also HATED the way Neal basically never called Georgie at all while they were in Nebraska. My boyfriend and I text each other every day to make sure we’re both okay and we’re not even married. Wouldn’t you think a married couple with children would at least give each other a call while traveling??? I’m not saying you should constantly be on your phone with your significant other but not even one text message to say, “we made it and we’re all okay,” shouldn’t be too much to ask. It’s just awful and mean and a lot of times, I felt like Neal was trying to punish Georgie for wanting to further her career that she’d been working on since college.
On that note, I got so annoyed and frustrated at Neal for constantly complaining about living in Los Angeles. I get it, you don’t like LA. Neal had no real ambition to do anything with his life and Georgie did. Georgie had a career trajectory and Neal didn’t. It’s not her fault that she’s successful in her job and he isn’t. He made the conscious decision to stay with her and be the stay-at-home dad. There’s no need to take it out on Georgie. You made your bed, you gotta sleep in it.
I think I took this book to heart because as a woman, we’re expected to make so much sacrifices but when a man does the exact same, we’re supposed to celebrate it like it’s a huge deal. I hated that this book made me feel like Georgie was in the wrong for doing what was best for her and Neal was allowed to be disproportionately angry and passive-aggressive with her for a situation that he not only chose for himself but also millions of women do all the time with NO gratitude or praise.
If you like romantic books and you’re okay with some of the details I’ve listed out, then you should read this book. Otherwise, I’d skip it. I got so angry just typing all this out so I can’t in good conscious really recommend it to you. It’s a shame because I really like Rainbow Rowell books for the most part and I was just surprised and upset that this book turned out the way it did.