Please excuse me if this entire post appears to be littered with glimmering tears and an awkwardly placed throat-clearing or two, simply because thinking about Rainbow Rowell’s achingly funny and heartbreaking Landline just makes me teary. Oh, no, here come the waterworks again.
Rowell’s book takes a very relatable plot line — comedy writer Georgie McCool frequently finds her professional life bumping up against her personal, and when she’s offered a major step forward in her career, it threatens her relationships with her husband and children — and injects a magic little idea that somehow doesn’t keep the whole thing from feeling rooted in reality. Finally cleared to craft the television series Georgie and her writing partner Seth have wanted to make since college, Georgie is forced to miss Christmas back her husband Neal’s family home in Nebraska. Sick of always feeling second best, Neal takes the kids to Omaha, leaving Georgie at home to work. It’s not a break up… or is it? When Georgie reaches out to Neal on her mom’s old landline, she reaches — but in the past. Turns out, the Neal she’s talking to is college Neal, just after they had a similar fight… nearly two decades earlier.
Can Georgie save her marriage…in the past… kind of? It all sounds confusing, but it’s not, and Rowell’s zippy, fast-paced, and very engaging prose keeps the whole thing moving right along (with occasional pauses for tear-wiping). If you’ve already sobbed your way through Landline, here are some other picks to get those salty ones flowing.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell's first adult-skewed novel quite charmingly and cleverly focuses on something we use everyday: email! Built like a romantic comedy (in the best of all possible ways), Attachments uses a semi-epistolary style to introduce us to best pals Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder, who pass their days pinging emails back and forth at each other. But we're not the only people falling for the funny, bright, and perpetually lovelorn Beth through her emails, so is tech whiz Lincoln, who is tasked with reading the company's emails to single out inappropriate stuff. Awkward!
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Two recommendations for the same author, based on one of her other books? Too much? Hardly, if only because Rowell's voice is so specific and so snappy that you'll likely find it hard to kick after your first reading. Luckily for you, Rowell has four novels under her belt, so you might as well just go ahead and read them all right now. Sold as one of her more teen-leaning books, Fangirl is a natural fit for fans of Landline, thanks to its funny leading lady (Cath) who is compelled by a creative obsession (writing fan fic) and a messy love life. Just imagine what Georgie would be like if she traded out comedy for fan fiction.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
"Wait, is it like sci-fi-y? I don't think I want sci-fi-y," a friend recently asked me after I had gushed at her for roughly 15 minutes about my love for Landline. Well, no? Not really? But maybe? Although Rowell uses what sure sounds like a sci-fi plot device to drive her book, it never feels like a sci-fi novel. Niffenegger's novel operates in the same way, instead using time travel (a more literal sort than the kind we find in Landline) to push her own plot forward. (Also, it just doesn't get much more romantic than The Time Traveler's Wife .)
Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
Georgie spends heartbreaking little chunks of time imagining what her life would be like without Neal — or, perhaps more specifically, what Neal's life would look like without Georgie, and Oakley's novel puts a tear-soaked twist on that concept. In it, young wife Daisy is faced with her own imminent demise, a horrible future she decides to right (just a little bit) by finding her beloved husband a new mate. Sounds great, right? It's a lot harder in practice.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Han's novel is a real charmer, cramming in all the joys and pains of teenagehood alongside the kind of storyline that would make even the most hardened adult think, Oof, yeah, that makes me wince. Imagine you like to write about your feelings, specifically in (unsent! this is important!) letters, even more specifically to every guy you've ever loved. Lara Jean Song does just that, and while it works as some sort of weird, wacky journaling, everything goes topside when those letters get, gulp, mailed.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Georgie is often preoccupied with the concept of fate, soulmates, and destiny, the very same issues that run right through Morgenstern's gorgeously penned novel (admittedly, in more majestic ways). The Night Circus also believably and satisfyingly draws from magic and myth to present a world that's not so very different than our own, but that has its own unique rules and ways of working. If you wanted Landline to capitalize just a smidge more on its more fantastical elements, The Night Circus will deliver.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
It seems strange to write, "Hey, if you liked all those parts in Landline about that crumbling marriage, check this one out!," but that's exactly what Offill's novel delivers. Georgie and Neal's issues are wrenching, but they are also understandable and, quite frankly, relatively commonplace. Still, Rowell brings them to vibrant life, just like Offill does in her creative, funny, and wise look at a not-so-different marriage on the brink.
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Some of the very best bits in Rowell's novel zip back in time to Georgie and Neal's college-set courtship, which is so cute that it could easily be its own novel. Hey, Life in Outer Space is kind of that exact novel! Centered on a pair of similarly smart and cool teens, Life in Outer Space is all about the kind of first love that could very well turn into, well, big love.
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Georgie's phone to the past inspires her to fix parts of her life that exist firmly in the present -- it's one heck of a surprising road map to the rest of her life, but it will do. A similar idea is explored in Matson's cute book, which sees formerly shy teen Emily unmoored by the disappearance of her wild best friend Sloane, who has left her a list of tasks to accomplish in her absence. Is this Emily's own road map to her life?