By Tayla Courage
Rainbow Rowell’s 2014 adult contemporary novel, “Landline,” incorporates elements of science fiction to show how a relationship can evolve over time.
The book centers in on the marriage between 37-year-old sitcom writer Georgie McCool and former cartoonist Neal Grafton. The foundation of their relationship was never solid, but true conflict arises when Georgie announces that she will not be spending Christmas with Neal’s family in Omaha, Nebraska.
Georgie and her writing partner Seth have just learned that the television show they have been pitching for nearly a decade is close to being greenlit, but they only have 10 days to write a complete pilot episode.
She tries to be considerate of her husband’s feelings, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice an opportunity to advance in her career. She suggests flying to Omaha after the holidays, but Neal decides to take their children and go without her.
Not fond of spending the holiday season alone in an empty house, Georgie retreats to her mother’s home in Calabasas, California, where she is greeted with overwhelming concern for the current state of her marriage with Neal.
She’s being treated as though her husband has left her, and while he physically has, their relationship is still intact, or so she hopes. Driven to the brink of madness, she frantically tries to reach Neal to make an attempt at smoothing things over.
When Neal, now age 22, answers, Georgie realizes that her childhood home’s yellow landline doubles as a time machine that allows her to communicate with the 1998 version of her then boyfriend.
Everything is simpler with Neal from the past, and Georgie begins to question the timing of her relationship. Maybe she was destined to be with this version of Neal all along.
From her internal monologue, there is no doubt that Georgie is deeply in love Neal, but she puts him on a pedestal so high that she, herself, develops an inferiority complex. In her mind, she is undeserving of Neal’s affection because she is selfish and flawed. She puts her work before her family and that makes her a bad person, but in actuality, she has refused to acknowledge her husband’s flaws.
While he gives up his period of career exploration to become a stay-at-home father to his two daughters, his general apathy toward life makes it difficult to believe that this choice was at all sacrificial.
Georgie eventually makes the connection that everything that is happening in her current marriage with Neal has happened before during the budding stages of their romance.
The landline forces her to realize that she can no longer wait for Neal to make the first move at repairing their dysfunctional marriage. It is her turn to be open and honest about the way she feels in addition to making the necessary compromises that will save her faltering family unit.
In this quick, comical read, Rowell introduces a collection of characters that are relatable, not in the situations they are compelled to face, but in the way they respond to life’s adversities.