“You don't know when you're twenty-three.
You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten - in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
She didn't know at twenty-three.”
I have loved all of Rowell's books, and Landline is no exception to that love. Truthfully, I put off reading it until well after the debut out of fear that it wouldn't live up to her other titles. And while I do have one small complaint about it, I really loved this title (more on that complaint in a bit).
Essentially, Landline is about Georgie McCool and her husband Neal. They married relatively young and while Georgie undoubtedly loves her husband, she's not the best at showing him how much. The novel begins when Georgie has to back out of a family trip to Neal's childhood home for work, and Neal decides to leave without her, taking their two daughters with him. For whatever reason, Georgie cannot get in touch with Neal once he leaves, and she is forced to face the fact that perhaps their marriage isn't as solid as she once thought. The book follows her thoughts throughout that separation (with a bit of magical realism thrown in), and shows her thinking back to the beginnings of their relationship.
This book was one of those titles that hit me at the right place and in the right time. I think, had I read this before I got married, I would have been bored by the very real marriage parts of this. And I think a lot of Georgie and Neal's relationship as a married couple is realistic. My husband and I discussed the other day that we sometimes go in waves in terms of commitment and energy invested into our relationship. When he was working his incredibly stressful job, I took on more responsibility and care for us and our home. When he was unemployed, that responsibility shifted to his shoulders. Now we're pretty even as he is back in school. I think that kind of give and take is normal in a relationship.
What's abnormal is when one participant in the relationship takes more and more without ever giving, which is the situation Georgie finds herself in. As Rowell writes,
“Nobody's lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen - because you love each other.”
I find that to be very true after 5+ years of marriage and 13 years of being with Matt. And while I know that might seem insignificant to some, I do know that we have learned that making a life together is all about that balance and that we must work to maintain that balance. For that, this book really resonated with me in my current (happily) married state. It was just an affirmation of something I already knew-that love and fitting together takes a lot of work. If you expect it to just happen and be fine forever, you have some struggles in the future.
I also loved the flashback between Georgie's current relationship with Neal to her memories and conversations with Neal as a young twenty-something. The portions about long conversations on the phone for hours and hours made me melt a bit, as it brought back memories from my senior year of high school, right after Matt and I started dating. There were a few times I fell asleep as we talked into the early morning hours. :)
I found myself making comparisons between that part of their relationship and my own, as I know how hard it is to be young and in love. I also know that as you grow older, you do change and mature. You've got to accept those changes.
The other aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was Neal's attitude toward Seth-Georgie's co-worker and friend since college. There were a couple of times in the novel where I thought that Neal was finally going to flip on Georgie for still being bonded to a male friend, but when he treated Georgie's relationship with Seth as important to her and her happiness and goals...well, I found it refreshing. How often do we read about a male imposing restrictions on their wife and her relationship with other men? Too many. For that, I really gained respect for Neal.
My one complaint? I felt that at times some of the scenes dragged on a little too long. The puppies? Not really necessary. Some of the whining? Not needed either. But neither was distracting enough to pull me away from finishing this in two sittings.
In all, I found Landline to be refreshing and as hopeful as some of Rowell's other work. I think she has a knack for creating relatable characters (Heather! I would love more about her!). I look forward to seeing what else Rowell has in store!
“Nothing good is easy.”