Landline by Rainbow Rowell

For thirty-something Georgie McCool, life can be basically summed up by her three life roles: as sitcom writer/TV partner to her needy guy best friend Seth, as wife to her stay-at-home husband Neal, and as mother to her two adorable girls Alice and Naomi.

More than a decade of being married, several job switches, two pregnancies, and two houses later, Georgie and Neal know, without the need to tell each other, that their marriage is barely surviving, and that it will soon fall apart if things between the two of them continue this way.

The family trip to Omaha, Nebraska to spend the holidays with Neal’s mother seems like the perfect opportunity to reconnect with Neal and the girls, something that they had to plan and wait for so long to happen because of Georgie’s crazy work schedule. So when Georgie breaks the news to Neal at the last minute that she cannot go with them because of a major, life-and-career-altering deadline at work, Neal and the girls leave without her. And Georgie has to acknowledge the growing horror in her gut that this can possibly be the thing that will end them.

Running on caffeine and working almost 24/7 with Seth to finish scripts and do the finishing touches to their show, all while trying to keep the Neal problem at bay, sends Georgie into a tailspin. She finds herself crashing at her mother’s house to avoid her own empty one. Attempts to call Neal on her cellphone are futile, and Georgie resorts to using the old rotary landline phone hidden away in her old bedroom closet.

By some bizarre, inexplicable paranormal twist in her already chaotic life, Georgie realizes that she is talking to her Neal from 1998. It’s the Neal that she fell in love with in college who was sweet and gentle, with the jarring sense of humor.

The Neal in 1998 did not yet know the kind of life that present-day Neal and George have. Is this the universe’s way of telling Georgie to change the things that she can before it’s too late? Or is this her chance to give up Neal and give him a shot at a happier, fuller life, without her?

Rainbow’s strength as a writer is her always colorful, full-dimensional and hilarious characters that have real problems and quirks. You can take your pick on which characters that you want to adore because “Landline” has a lot. Although I was not too crazy about the paranormal twist in the book (really, a magic landline?), it somehow worked and figured very well in the story. Like a metaphor for unplugging and going back to the basics. Like shutting out the noise and focusing on the things that matter. This book celebrates love, family, husbands and wives, the difficulties and joys and changes every marriage has to go through, and the fight to keep it alive. It’s about standing by your choices, and being grateful and appreciative for all the good love we receive regardless. It’s sweet, it’s bittersweet, and it made me want to hug my husband just a little bit tighter.

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