(2014), a science-fiction novel by American author Rainbow Rowell, concerns a woman in her late thirties who realizes she can call her husband's younger self through a landline. Though Rowell is known as a young adult fiction writer, most critics classify Landline
as a novel for adults. For Landline
, Rowell received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction Book of the Year.
Georgie McCool is a successful thirty-seven-year-old sitcom writer on the hit television series Jeff'd Up
. Her husband, Neil, stays at home to care for their two daughters while Georgie works. Although Jeff'd Up
pays the bills and allows her daughters to have comfortable lives, Georgie is deeply artistically unsatisfied with her work on the show. Georgie still dreams of producing a pilot she has been planning for years with her writing partner, Seth, with whom she has been best friends since college. For his part, Seth resents the fact that Neil takes up too much of Georgie's time, presumably preventing her from becoming the writer she is destined to be.
A week before Christmas, Georgie and Seth finally have a chance to produce the pilot of their dreams. Unfortunately, the deadline is in only a few days, and Georgie is supposed to accompany Neil and their daughters to Omaha to visit his mother over the holiday. Though immensely conflicted over the decision, Georgie ultimately decides to stay behind in Los Angeles to work on the pilot script rather than be with her family. While Neil is notoriously reserved when it comes to expressing emotion, Georgie can sense he is upset as he leaves with the girls for Omaha. Georgie makes Neil promise to call her when he lands.
After parting with Neil, Georgie goes straight to work on the pilot script with Seth, missing the call she made him promise to make. Stricken, she tries to call Neil back, but the call goes straight to voicemail. Feeling anxious and uncertain about her marriage, Georgie takes a break to visit with her mother who also lives in Los Angeles. For some reason, Georgie's mother is under the impression that she and Neil are getting a divorce. In a panic, Georgie tries to call Neil again from her cell phone, but he seems to be dodging her calls. In a moment of desperation, Georgie uses the yellow rotary phone in the bedroom in which she grew up to call Neil, who finally answers. It appears, however, that when she calls him from the yellow rotary phone, the Neil who answers is from 1998, when he is 22 and it is early in their relationship.
Georgie reminiscences about the beginning of her relationship with Neil. At ULA, Georgie and Seth are best friends. They write together for The Spoon
humor magazine. While Georgie considers them just friends, Seth is secretly in love with Georgie. One day, Georgie notices Neil, a new cartoonist at the magazine. Georgie and Neil are instantly attracted to one another, and before long they are dating, which torments Seth. One winter break in 1998, Georgie and Neil have a fight. While Georgie is supposed to accompany Neil to his mother's house in Omaha for Christmas, Neil ends up flying home alone. When he returns, Neil proposes to Georgie seemingly out of the blue. Georgie accepts.
Back in the present, Georgie now realizes that to the Neil on the other end of the line, it is that same winter break in 1998. Coming to grips with the situation and narrowly avoiding a nervous breakdown in the process, Georgie decides to keep Neil on the line. Despite the fact that doing so could cause bizarre time anomalies, she continues to talk to 22-year-old Neil simply because she misses him so much. Suddenly, the pieces start to make sense to Georgie. At the time, Georgie was thrown completely off-guard when Neil drove twenty-seven hours straight from Omaha to Los Angeles just to propose to her. She now realizes that, from Neil's perspective, he had the phone conversations in 1998 that Georgie is only now experiencing. It was these very conversations, in fact, that convinced him to propose.
Touched by this realization, Georgie abandons Seth and her pilot dream to catch the next flight to Omaha. The plane lands amid heavy snowfall, and Georgie struggles to find a car that will take her to the house of Neil's mother. Finally, she hitches a ride with Cather and Levi, two characters from one of Rowell's previous novels who make a cameo here. On the way to Neil's mother's house, Georgie begins to worry that by talking to Neil on the phone, she created some sort of time anomaly that wiped out their children. To her immense relief, Georgie arrives to find her daughters alive and well. Having faced down this ordeal and chosen Neil over work, Georgie resolves to improve her marriage.NPR
"funny, clever, charming, [and] endearing."