TV writer Georgie McCool finally gets a shot at writing her dream show. The problem: She needs to stay in L.A. and work on it over Christmas. Georgie’s husband Neal decides to take their young daughters, as planned, to Omaha, Nebraska, to be with his mother for the holiday. He then promptly stops answering Georgie’s calls to his cell phone, leading Georgie to fear her marriage is in big trouble.
While she’s at her mom’s house and the battery in her cell dies, Georgie finds her old yellow landline phone. She calls Neal on it and slowly realizes the phone is a line to her past—1998, to be exact, during the Christmas break when Neal proposed to her. Can she use the landline to make Neal fall in love with her all over again, or should she make sure he doesn’t marry her, knowing how unhappy he is in the present day?
Rowell’s writing is engaging enough, but I wasn’t sure I wanted Georgie and Neal to resolve their issues because they seem ill-suited for each other. Neal has been aimless his whole life. He knows what he doesn’t want, but Georgie points out he doesn’t know what he does want. So he usually just negates Georgie’s ideas without offering workable compromises.
He seems to resent her for working, but he chose to be a stay-at-home dad because he couldn’t decide on a choice of career. And he knew all about Georgie’s ambitions before they married. I have a feeling Neal will continue to be unhappy with Georgie’s demanding career if he stays.
Rowell also has the habit of overusing parentheses, sometimes three sets in a row, sometimes encasing whole paragraphs in parentheses. Parenthetical information is digressive information so this means there were many digressions from the story, which was distracting. Some of the info is arguably integral, in which case parentheses shouldn’t have been used.
But Rowell is adept at writing dialogue; her characters speak in stops and starts and interrupt each other and use real-world colloquialisms. She keeps the pace brisk, and the magic-phone concept did make me ponder who I would call from my past and what conversations—if any—I would change.
Nerd verdict: Landline doesn’t quite connect