Audiobook Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

rainbow-rowell-landlineEveryone fantasizes a little about what they would do if they were given a chance to change history.

There are so many discussions in pop culture about time travel and its repercussions, and with all of that to contend with Landline by Rainbow Rowell still presents a really unique perspective on the subject.

It’s almost Christmas and Georgie McCool is stuck working on a show that has just been picked up for the midseason premiere. She knows her marriage is in trouble, but with this life-changing opportunity about to come her way she can’t pass it up.

She still loves her husband Neal, and he loves her, but when she breaks the news to him that she has to stay in Los Angeles instead of going to Omaha with him for their Christmas vacation, he’s upset. Then he packs up the kids and goes on the holiday without her.

But Georgie has found a way to communicate with Neal in the past, with the help of a yellow rotary phone that she has in her childhood bedroom.  It’s not time travel exactly, but Georgie feels like she’s been given the chance to fix her marriage before it starts.

But then she starts to wonder if that’s what she’s supposed to do.

Landline is my second foray into Rainbow Rowell’s writing and I found it steeped in nostalgia with bursts of laugh out loud humor. Even though the underlying subject matter really wasn’t a laughing matter.

Rowell writes a really honest portrayal of a marriage in trouble. I love Georgie and Neal as a couple, and Georgie’s friend Seth is a great “antagonist” of sorts.

Seth is Georgie’s writing partner and he serves as the third wheel in this love triangle that isn’t exactly a love triangle.

What I appreciated about Neal and Georgie’s relationship was that it didn’t fall into the trappings of instal-love. Georgie and Neal work at their relationship and through Georgie’s reminiscing you slowly see their relationship unfold.

What Rowell captures with this story structure is the way people evolve and change. Georgie McCool and Neal Grafton’s relationship isn’t so much told as it is mapped. It almost feels a bit like (500) Days of Summer with a sort of backwards storytelling.

But this isn’t just a story of reflection, it is one of magic.

The centerpiece of the story is this magical phone that Georgie discovers. This yellow rotary phone lets Georgie call her husband fifteen years in the past and sparks the beginning of Georgie’s unraveling.

I loved this premise, but I couldn’t help but fear that I had been tainted by too many time travel plots. About halfway through I guessed the solution to the premise of the book. It’s no wonder that I was able too when it is steeps in references to Time Turners, Time Lords, and Delorean’s.

What I liked about this situation was that it isn’t necessarily a time travel, because Georgie observes that it is just her voice, but she is influencing the past.  So it is sort of like time travel.

Georgie is a character that is entertaining to listen to. Her reactions to certain things regarding the magic phone seem honest and real.

I mean, come on, if you found a phone that let you call your spouse in the past, you’d freak out a little too at first.

The narrator for this audiobook is Rebecca Lowman. She was one of the narrators for Eleanor & Park. Lowman’s voice suits Georgie McCool. In fact, I actually think I like her better as a 38-year-old Georgie than I did as 16-year-old Eleanor.

She has a really smooth and soothing voice but she’s still able to add dimension to the characters.

While I loved the premise, I did think that the book got a little redundant at times. There is a lot of handwringing over how Georgie will wield this great power of the magic phone and the entire dilemma is summed up pretty well in Chapter 16:

There’s a magic phone in my childhood bedroom. I can use it to call my husband in the past. (My husband who isn’t my husband yet. My husband who maybe shouldn’t be my husband at all.)

There’s a magic phone in my childhood bedroom. I unplugged it this morning and hid it in the closet.

Maybe all the phones in the house are magic.

Or maybe I’m magic. Temporarily magic. (Ha. Time travel pun!)

Does it count as time travel? If it’s just my voice traveling.

There’s a magic phone hidden in my closet. And I think it’s connected to the past. And I think I am supposed to fix something. I think I’m supposed to set something right.

Although different moments and obstacles are presented in this book, it felt like sometimes the writing continued to rehash the same thought.

There were times I wanted to grab Georgie by the shoulders and shake her, telling her to stop wringing her hands, and stop overthinking, because this is a book and it always works out in books. It wouldn’t be a book if it didn’t.

What might have changed it up and made it more interested to me, was if we got a bit of Neal’s perspective. I am actually thinking of Eleanor & Park, where Rowell told the story from the two main character’s points of view. I wonder how the story would have played out if we’d seen Neal in the past getting calls from Georgie in the future at the same time?

Overall, this is a really good story and I did like it. I thought it was a heartwarming love story, wonderfully told. If I wasn’t oversaturated with time travel stories, I would have been surprised by the ending.


Landline is now available. You can purchase the audiobook through Audible and iTunes. You can get a physical copy of the book through your local independent bookseller, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Published by Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser is a fiction writer and essayist. She is an associate editor at Tell-Tale TV, where she writes about all things tv. She has had fiction appear in five : 2 : one magazine’s #thesideshow and her nonfiction has appeared in Bitch Media and The Hartford Courant. You can find her talking about tv, film, and knitting on Twitter @LaurenBusser.

10 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

  1. It’s getting harder and harder to create original, un-cliche ideas these days! Although this book sounds absolutely quaint and fun, it’s never interesting to be able to predict the ending. I loved your review though!


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