By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I really, really love Rainbow Rowell's writing, even as I don't always love her stories. Landline is the fourth Rowell book I've read, and my least favorite story, but the things I love about Rowell's work -- her heartbreakingly relatable characters, her wry humor, the subtle way she shows relationships develop in a series of gestures and events, so that the reader almost falls in love along with the characters -- all of those things are very much present here.
I didn't like this story as well as previous efforts because, although the main character, Georgie, is as real and as relatable as Rowell's other protagonists, I spent the entire book wanting to smack some sense into her.
Georgie's marriage is failing because she doesn't make time for her family amid her work as a comedy writer. Now, as a working mom who is always juggling to find my own "work-life balance," I should have been more sympathetic to Georgie's plight, but no... I just wanted to smack her.
Georgie gets an incredible opportunity to write her own sitcom (along with her long-time writing partner, Seth). The only hitch is that it requires her to work through Christmas. Her husband, Neal, crankily (and a tad passive-aggressively) tells her to stay while he and their girls keep planned travel arrangements to visit his family in Omaha, except he leaves on such bad terms that Georgie can't concentrate on work anyway.
The whole first 260 pages of the book, while Georgie is losing her grip over losing her family, I just wanted to shake her because the solution was so very obvious (and had nothing to do with the magical yellow phone that lets her call and talk to Neal in 1998, before they married): Get your ass to Omaha, Lady! Even as I enjoyed the flashbacks to earlier points in Neal and Georgie's relationship, even as I enjoyed Rowell's exploration of why Neal and Georgie got together and should stay together, I couldn't really relax into the story because Georgie's failure to take the obvious steps necessary to do anything about her present situation made me crazy.
Georgie is and always has been torn between Seth (the writing partner) and Neal, and I didn't really like either man. Don't get me wrong, Neal is hugely romantic and swoony in a Beta-Hero way that works well on the printed page, but I think if I knew him in real life, I'd think he was annoyingly moody and passive-aggressive, and he wouldn't hold nearly the same appeal. Seth is witty and handsome, but totally self-absorbed, and Georgie's tolerance for that far exceeds mine.
Rowell tends to leave a lot of open questions at the conclusion of the book. Some of her endings (Eleanor & Park especially, Fangirl nearly so much) I find unsatisfying in the extreme, because they leave the reader without necessary closure. Luckily, Landline ended in a way that left a lot of things unsettled, but not frustratingly so: I felt like enough had been resolved that the conclusion felt natural and believable.