Landline by Rainbow Rowell is about a woman revisiting a tough time in her relationship with her then boyfriend at a time when she and he are struggling again, this time as a married couple with two daughters. It's a look at the way couples change, the way children change the dynamics — but with a touch of Anne Tyler style magical realism.
It's Christmas and they're supposed to fly to Omaha to spend time with his family, except Georgie is stuck in Los Angeles, working on a television series she's been developing for year and has finally been given the green light, if she and her cowriters can make the deadline.
Georgie stays at home while Neal and their daughters fly to Oklahoma. She does her best to work on the television project but is quickly distracted by how much she misses her family and by her mother and sister insisting that the marriage is on the rocks.
Her first night alone, Georgie ends up spending at her childhood home. With her cellphone's battery dead without a charger, she ends up calling Neal on an old Slimline telephone. Something about dialing a landline number (Neal's childhood home) with a landline phone and number (her childhood home) makes the call go back in time to the last time they fought — a rocky period that ultimately ended with Neal proposing marriage.
Like Anne Tyler's novels, there's no explanation for how these phone calls across time work. They just do on that sort of emotional, nostalgic logic. In the same way that if I were to call my grandmother from my landline to her old landline, I could talk to her even though she died in 2002. Landline walks a careful line between sentimentality and heartache. It was the perfect read for a time when my spouse on an extended business trip. Mind you, our communications didn't involve time travel. Nor was the trip a threat to the relationship but it was still a good read at a time when I missed him.