Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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 besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides 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 home 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?

3.5 cupcakes

“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.”

Rainbow Rowell has the gift of being able to write beautiful yet honest depictions of love’s many stages. Landline is a bit of a departure from her previous works in that it takes a less idealistic view of love and integrates a touch of magical realism into the story, however it manages to find its way into your heart all the same.

Landline is about how much can change between your twenties and your forties. The choices you make and the things that you’re passionate about now may not be enough to sustain your happiness in the future, and sometimes it’s hard to remember how work went from being something that you enjoyed to something that you have to do. Landline also shows how easy it is to become complacent in your relationships, reminding us not to take the people we love for granted and to work harder to keep the spark alive.

Despite the fact that I’m twenty years old and the only relationship I’m in is with my Netflix account, I found it incredibly easy to sympathize with Georgie. She’s very goal-oriented, and her tight focus on work often takes her away from her home responsibilities – a large source of tension in her household. Georgie’s selfishness, especially when it came to her relationship with her best friend Seth, made her hard to like at times, but her narrative voice was compelling enough that I could overlook that.

Through the use of a “magic phone” and flashbacks, the past and present are weaved together to remind Georgie (and readers) about just how much she truly loves her husband. Readers get to experience their relationship from the beginning (from when they first met to where they are now, with all the bumps between), so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely rooting for Neal and Georgie to stay together by the end of the book.

My main complaint about Landline is that the plot was rather slow. With Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Attachments, I had a rather hard time accomplishing anything as I didn’t want to put them down; Landline, however, was rather easy to walk away from, and just as easy to get back into after I picked it back up. There were also several plot points that I wish had been explored further. Mostly, though, the open ending left me questioning the strength of Georgie and Neal’s relationship, and whether or not they could truly last.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Landline. While it may not be my favourite of Rainbow Rowell’s works, I’ll still check out whatever beautifully written book she comes out with next.

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Book Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love.

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.

My Rating: 3 cupcakes

“When something bad happens to us, something good happens – often to someone else. And that’s The Good Luck of Right Now. We must believe it. We must. We must. We must.”

The Good Luck of Right Now is an epistolary novel, in that it is comprised entirely of letters written to the actor, Richard Gere. As a result, it’s fairly easy to say that The Good Luck of Right Now is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.

Our protagonist, Bartholemew Neil, is a 38 year old man who lives in a codependent relationship with his mother, keeps a journal of interesting things, and is in love with a Girlbrarian that he’s never spoken to. And he may be borderline autistic (though it was never explicitly confirmed). After his mother dies from cancer, his therapist, Wendy, advises that he make like a little bird discovering independence, and with the help of Richard Gere, a foul-mouthed man who loves cats, the Girlbrarian, and an ex-priest, he’s able to find his flock. This rag-tag group of characters was incredibly quirky, and yet Quick was still able to make me care about them – both because of their incredible strangeness and their normalcy.

Although The Good Luck of Right Now contains many difficult subjects (such as abuse and loss of a loved one), it is also incredibly uplifting. Despite his poor circumstances, Bartholemew is still able to see the good in people and selflessly offer his assistance, and even his home, to those in need. The idea of synchronicity – or “the good luck of right now” – is also an important theme; whether or not you believe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or that something good happens for every bad thing that occurs, it’s such a moving and powerful notion.

Overall, despite it’s overwhelming strangeness, I did enjoy The Good Luck of Right Now. I can’t wait to see what quirky story Matthew Quick comes up with next.