Author’s note: This review discusses Landline by Rainbow Rowell, and may contain spoilers.
Rainbow Rowell’s fourth novel, Landline, centers around one of the coolest-looking phones since the hamburger phone in Juno and how it affects the relationship and family of one Georgie McCool.
The phone’s also magic, by the way.
Landline tells the story of Georgie McCool, a comedy television writer who has two things I want: a name like a Bond girl (according to her husband, Neal), and a magic landline phone that allows her to talk to her husband back when he was just her boyfriend.
The family—Neal, Georgie, and their daughters Alice and Naomi (affectionately referred to as “Noomie”)—has plans to travel from Los Angeles to visit Neal’s mom in Omaha for the holidays. However, just two days before Christmas, Georgie reveals that she has to stay home because the show that she and her longtime writing partner, Seth, have been working on since their college days is on the verge of being picked up, and they need to write more episodes to present to the network. Neal is understandably upset about this, and after a brief argument, he takes the girls to Omaha while Georgie stays in L.A. to work on her scripts.
This rift is one of many between the couple and causes Georgie to start reevaluating their relationship. Not wanting to spend time alone in her house, she stays with her mom, 18-year-old stepsister Heather, stepfather Kendrick (who’s only three years older than Georgie), and their two pugs, one of which is pregnant. One night, she calls Neal from a bright yellow rotary phone in her room from when she was a teenager, only to have it be answered by the 1998 version of her husband. She’s talking with him a few days before he eventually proposes to her, during a time where they were in a different fight, and Georgie realizes that she has to figure out if the conversations taking place on this phone will let her save her marriage and ensure that Neal still comes to her door to propose on Christmas Day in 1998, or if both she and Neal would be better off if it never happened.
One of my favorite parts of Landline was the fact that Georgie is a lady in the very male-dominated field of comedy. Although it’s getting better, women are still severely underrepresented in the comedy world—both performing and writing—and reading about a woman who holds a prominent place on a TV sitcom’s writing staff was really exciting for me. The scene where she told Neal that one of her goals was to be the first female member of The Kids in the Hall made me squee internally. She’s a strong woman who knows what she wants; when Seth tells her he thought she was planning her life around Neal, she told him that she was planning it around herself.
Rowell has been great in her past books at writing things that could be overly cheesy or sentimental in the hands of other writers without making them sound cheesy in the slightest, and she definitely continues that in Landline. While I was listening, I kept pulling out my phone to write down different quotes that I loved, but my favorite by far was “Neal didn’t take Georgie’s breath away. Maybe the opposite. But that was okay. That was really good, actually. To be near someone who filled your lungs with air.”
Just… man, that’s a really freakin’ good line.
The book had moments where it was difficult to follow the story, or to remember if we were in the past or the present, but for the most part, I enjoyed it. While it’s not my favorite book of Rowell’s—that title still belongs to her second YA novel, Fangirl—Landline was still fun to listen to, with an interesting story and funny, realistic characters, and it reminded me why I love her work so much in the first place.
I absolutely loved Rebecca Lowman’s narration. Her voice was very calming, but she still managed to bring through the urgency, happiness, or despair that Georgie was feeling throughout the book. Her depiction of Neal’s voice was exactly what I pictured him sounding like when I imagined him. When I listened on the way to work in the mornings, sometimes her voice was soft and mellow enough to make me want to doze off, but that’s the closest I can come to a complaint for her work; she was great, and I’d love to listen to more books narrated by her.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Narration: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Allison Racicot is the Audiobook Reviewer at Girls in Capes. She’s a recent graduate of Emerson College in Boston, and has a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. She spends too much time listening to podcasts and getting overly attached to fictional characters.
Looking for more Rainbow Rowell? Fangirl was one of our Editor’s Picks for 2013. You can also find a more in-depth discussion of Rowell’s first YA novel, Eleanor & Park.