When your relationship is on the rocks and you’re not sure if it will ever sail again, a time machine starts to sound pretty good. If you could just rewind to the beginning of the evening, you could steer around this argument. If you had only understood two months ago, you would have acted differently. You know you’ll never get to pull a real Marty McFly, of course. But what if?

“Georgie hadn’t known back then how much she was going to come to need Neal, how he was going to become like air to her.
Was that codependence? Or was it just marriage?”

― Rainbow Rowell, Landline

Rainbow Rowell’s latest bestselling novel, Landline, is all about that if. Instead of Marty McFly, the book centers on one Georgie McCool, a TV comedy writer who decides to work through Christmas break in order to get a shot at a show she’s had her eye on for years. This doesn’t go over well with her husband Neal, who abruptly packs up their two kids and whisks off to spend the holidays at his mother’s house as originally planned. When Georgie’s first reaction is to think Neal and the kids are leaving her for good, Georgie realizes her marriage is in serious trouble. Her frantic efforts to get in touch with him fall flat as they keep missing each other’s calls, and Georgie becomes convinced that he’s avoiding her on purpose.

“Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen—because you love each other.”

― Rainbow Rowell, Landline

Increasingly desperate to speak with her husband, Georgie finds herself dialing up his mother’s house in Nebraska on an old rotary phone. Neal answers, but it’s not the Neal she knows. It’s Past Neal, the college-age version of him from back before they got married.  Suddenly, Georgie gets the chance to experience that time machine fantasy — but deciding what to do with that power is a lot more complicated than you would imagine. Is the magic telephone the perfect way to save their marriage? Or would everyone be better off if Georgie and Neal hadn’t gotten together in the first place?

“It’s more like 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, Landline

For many readers, Rainbow Rowell’s witty, entertaining writing style and the quirky magical twist may function as a clever disguise for the seriousness of her subject. But while the words on the page go down as breezily as one of Rowell’s young adult novels, the truths she expresses about love, relationships and marriage really strike home. Landline is an honest exploration of how complicated commitment can be, the trickiness of trusting your own judgment when your relationship has blurred the lines between you and your partner, and how to maintain mutual love and consideration without losing yourself or taking too much from the other person.

The magical telephone is an undeniably odd element in a book that’s otherwise grounded in reality, but part of Rowell’s appeal is her willingness to be uncategorizable. Landline is a perfect example. The touch of magical realism sets this book apart from the usual relationship and family drama, while the fun references to 1980s and 1990s pop culture and the humorous conversations between characters inject the lightheartedness of a beach read into a smart study of a marriage in trouble.


Great news: That nice-looking hardcover of Landline by Rainbow Rowell is about to get a chic new companion! The new paperback edition of Landline comes out in July, and that bold, bright design is just begging for a place on your bookshelf. Be sure to check out Rainbow Rowell’s other works, while you’re at it, including her two young adult novels, Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. Check out her website for more information.

Rainbow Rowell lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and two sons. Her critically acclaimed novels have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List and received numerous literary awards. Eleanor & Park has been optioned by Dreamworks Studios, with Rowell slated to write the screenplay. This offbeat, original author is definitely one to watch.

Join the Daily’s Book Club! Last week we reviewed Captive by Brighton Walsh. Next week we’ll review The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Get reading and stay tuned!

Have you read Landline? Who would you call on a magic phone? Tell us in the comments!

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