I am a big fan of classic Meg Ryan films. Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail. I love them all. 90’s Meg Ryan was cute and endearing. Her films all had an adorable, quirky element to them, but they also had deeper message about life, love, and friendship. I think this combination of quirky and real is what made Rainbow Rowell’s new novel Landline feel like it could be a darn good Meg Ryan film.
In Landline, Georgie is a wife, mother of two, and television comedy writer living in Los Angeles. Right before Christmas, she gets a career-altering opportunity for her own television show, but she has to stay in L.A. to write four episodes even though her family had plans to visit her in-laws in Nebraska. Despite her husband’s protests, Georgie decides not to go to Nebraska, but she’s surprised when her husband Neal takes their two daughters and goes anyway.
Worried that her marriage may be failing, Georgie constantly tries to call Neal, but her own terrible cell phone and Neal’s terrible phone habits make it impossible to connect with him. Desperate, she tries the landline at her mother’s house and finally gets Neal on the line. Only, to her surprise, it’s Neal from the past, from when he first left her and right before he proposed. Now Georgie has the opportunity to talk to this Neal from the past and try to fix their marital problems before they begin, or maybe her time continuum will mean she and Neal never do get married.
Different from her popular YA novel Eleanor and Park, Landline is an adult novel. The main characters are middle aged, grown with families of their own. Their problems involve careers, parenting, and marriage. Flashbacks to the college years, when Georgie and Neal first met, however, keeps the story relevant to a younger audience. While readers worry about Neal and Georgie’s marriage in the present, they can enjoy the cute and confusing parts of the beginning of a romance. This juxtaposition really makes the novel appealing to all ages.
The reason I think it feels like a Meg Ryan movie is the phone line to the past. It’s quirky and almost whimsical, and I can easily imagine Meg Ryan sitting on her bed in her pajamas talking to her husband-to-be in the past. But despite this magical element, the story doesn’t stray from its serious plot. Georgie has to figure out what to do about her marriage, her family, and her career.
Landline is Sleepless in Seattle meets When Harry Met Sally. It has a unique plot, a tiny dose of magic set in the real world, but the issues it tackles are heavy. Balancing work and family is a tricky thing for people of all ages, and it’s a very relevant topic in today’s culture. Rainbow Rowell has written another winner. And I still think Meg Ryan should star in the movie adaptation.