Landline (Rowell)

Rainbow Rowell, 2014
St. Martin's Press
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250049377

A hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.

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. . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1973-74
Where—Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Education—University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Currently—lives in Omaha

Rainbow Rowell is an American author of young adult and adult contemporary novels. Her first novel Attachments, published in 2011, is a contemporary romantic comedy about a company's IT guy who falls in love with a woman whose email he has been monitoring. Kirkus Reviews listed it as one of the outstanding debuts of 2011.

In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by the New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013, and as Goodreads' best young adult fiction of the year. DreamWorks and Carla Hacken are planning a movie, for which Rowell has been asked to write the screenplay.

Rowell completed the first draft of Fangirl for National Novel Writing Month in 2011. It was chosen as the inaugural selection for Tumblr's reblog book club. Landline, Rowell's fourth novel, a contemporary adult novel about a marriage in trouble, was released in 2014.

Rowell's work also gained attention in 2013 when a parents' group at a Minnesota high school challenged Eleanor & Park, and Rowell herself was disinvited to a library event; however, a panel ultimately determined that the book could stay on library shelves. Rowell noted in an interview that the material that these parents were calling "profane" was what many kids in difficult situations realistically had to deal with, and that "when these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible."

The book has also come under fire from a multitude of social justice and Korean activist sources because of its fetishization of Korean bodies (particularly "feminine" masculinity), misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Asian diasporic and half-Asian experiences, and overt tones of white saviour complex.  (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/14/2014.)

Visit the author's website.

Book Reviews
This very direct, affecting book captures a sense of two people who once really needed each other and then, through the travails of marriage, work and parenthood, just lost their way. The magic phone becomes Ms. Rowell's way to rewrite It's a Wonderful Life…There's nothing sophisticated about Landline, nor is there any clutter. But there's the simple story of a woman suddenly able to imagine how important her husband has been to her, and how easily she managed to overlook him. What that film accomplished with an angel named Clarence, Ms. Rowell accomplishes with a quaint old means of communication, and for her narrative purposes, it really does the trick.
Janet Maslin - New York Times Book Review

Keen psychological insight, irrepressible humor and a supernatural twist: a woman can call her husband in the past.

But a focus on the endings is the wrong one when you’re reading a book of Rowell’s. What matters most are the middles, which she packs with thoughtful dissections of how we live today, reflections upon the many ways in which we can love and connect as humans, and tacit reassurances of the validity of our feelings regardless of our particular experiences.

After the blazing successes of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Attachments, it’s become clear that Rowell is an absolute master of rendering emotionally authentic and absorbing stories...While the novel soars in its more poignant moments, Rowell injects the proper dose of humor to keep you laughing through your tears.
Romance Times

[A] magical plot device allows Georgie to investigate what drove her and Neal apart in flashbacks, and consider whether they were ever truly happy. Rowell is, as always, a fluent and enjoyable writer—the pages whip by. Still, something about the relationship between Georgie and Neal feels hollow, like it’s missing the complexity of adult love, despite the plot’s special effects.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) The New York Times best-selling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl makes a leap back to the world of adult relationships we last saw in her Attachments.... While the topic might have changed, this is still Rowell—reading her work feels like listening to your hilariously insightful best friend tell her best stories. —Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA
Library Journal

A marriage in crisis, a magical intervention and a bittersweet choice.... [Rowell has] taken the romantic excitement of great contemporary teen literature and applied it to a more mature story.... Her characters are instantly lovable, and the story moves quickly and only a little predictably—the ending manages to surprise and satisfy all at once.... The realities of a grown-up relationship are leavened by the buoyancy and wonder of falling in love all over again.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. What would you do if you found a magic phone that called into the past? Who would you call? Is there something in your life you’d try to fix?

2. Do you think Georgie is supposed to use the phone to fix her marriage? Is her marriage broken?

3. Was it fair of Neal to take the girls to Omaha for Christmas without Georgie? Do you think his frustration with her was justified?

4. Do you blame Georgie for not going to Omaha with her family? For being so passionate about her career? Would you feel differently if the roles were reversed and it was Neal putting his career first?

5. Georgie doesn’t want to be home alone in her empty house while Neal and the girls are gone. How does being back in her childhood home with her mom, sister, and stepdad affect the way Georgie feels and behaves? How do each of these characters help her work through her feelings for Neal?

6. Georgie can never get in touch with Neal on his cell phone. Do you have people in your life who—even in this age of ubiquitous cell phones—never pick up their phone or answer their texts? Do you resend it? Or do you wish you could be more like them?

7. In many ways Seth is a better match for Georgie. Do you think they should have ended up together? What is it about Neal that attracts Georgie? What is it about Georgie that Neal falls in love with? Do you think they are a good match?

8. Was it wrong for Seth to tell Georgie he loves her? Or should he have kept that to himself? Do you believe him?

9. Why do you think Rainbow chose to include pugs in this novel? How does the pug scene in the laundry room relate to Georgie’s own life? Does that scene affect what Georgie does next?

10. Do you think Georgie regrets her career choices? Do you think women today are asked to make harder choices when it comes to family and their careers than men are?

11. Are you old enough to remember talking on a landline? Or a rotary phone? What memories did this book bring back? What’s different about talking on a landline compared to a cell phone? How is that reflected in the story?

12. This is how Georgie describes marriage and love: It’s more like you meet someone, and you fall in love, and you  hope that that person is the one—and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.Do you think she’s right? Do you think Rainbow agrees with Georgie?

13. Neal says of love, "Maybe there’s no such thing as enough." What does he mean? And do you agree?

14. If Georgie is right, Neal already took part in all of their phone calls as a younger man. How did that affect his understanding of their marriage?

15. What do you think happens at the end of the story? Does Georgie continue to work with Seth on her new show? What would you do? What does she owe Neal in this situation? What does she owe herself?

16. Does this book have a happy ending?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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