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December 16, 2014

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell, starts out with one of those pregnancy-scare conversations every girl has with a girlfriend at some point, occasionally when one or both haven’t even had sex yet. What if, is the litany, from wondering if it will be a “fetal alcoholic” to constructing elaborate fantasies of the child in daycare and the husband’s eye beginning to stray from the sleep-deprived mother. In Rowell’s version, though, this conversation is as amusing as the other person always thinks it is, culminating with the friend getting to give advice based on the fears the maybe-mother has been sharing with her.

This is Rowell’s first novel, and in it we can see the seeds of the good character-building and amusing dialogue-creating that she will go on to in novels like Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. The place where the hero, Lincoln, works is described as “it had been a darkroom about five years and two dozen fluorescent lights ago, and with all of the lights and the computer servers, it was like sitting inside a headache.”

The story quickly evolves into a wished-for romance between Lincoln and one of the two girls from the opening conversation, Beth, who works in his building and whose e-mail he is directed to spy on in the course of his work for a company facing the threat of the “millennium bug.”

During one conversation about goals with his sister, Lincoln ends up sounding like Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she wishes that the “learning” part of her education could happen in a montage: “’If I were in a movie,’ he said, ‘I’d fix this by volunteering with special-needs kids or the elderly. Or maybe I’d get a job in a greenhouse…or move to Japan to teach English.’”

The girl with the pregnancy scares, Jennifer, gives the reply I always use when told that “being miserable about some bad thing that might not ever happen won’t do you any good.” She says “I believe that worrying about a bad thing prepares you for when it comes. If you worry, the bad thing doesn’t hit you as hard. You can roll with the punch if you see it coming.” When the bad thing does happen, however, we see that while these are brave words, sometimes nothing can help a person roll with certain punches.

Jennifer and Beth’s e-mail conversations are the best parts of the novel. I particularly enjoy her description of a group of bridesmaids at a family wedding: “they all wanted ‘smoky eyes’—‘you know, like Helen Hunt at the Oscars.’ I’m pretty sure that my sister Gwen and I are the only ones who won’t look like domestic abuse victims in the wedding pictures.”

When Beth and Lincoln finally meet, near the end, she asks him “do you believe in love at first sight?” and he replies “I don’t know….Do you believe in love before that?” It’s sweet, and they’re right for each other, and even his over-protective mom comes around eventually.

Like the apartment Lincoln lucks into, the novel is cozy and old-fashioned. It’s not demanding, but entertaining; good for a comfort read. Do you need one about now?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2014 10:24 am

    This sounds like a really sweet book. I’ve heard so much about Rowell, everyone seems to love her. Perhaps I will give her a try one of these days.

    • December 17, 2014 1:22 pm

      They’re easy, fun books to read. I think you should start with Fangirl.

  2. December 17, 2014 4:36 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about her too, and want to read her, but she’s always advertised as being just a little bit “young,” as if the author’s style and content would appeal to teenage me and not adult me.

    • December 21, 2014 5:33 pm

      Eh, her books are marketed as young adult, and that’s a genre I’ve quit reading much since my kids largely outgrew it, but I like her books and I’m in my fifties.

  3. December 17, 2014 7:11 pm

    I do need a book like that now, but I had suuuuch an issue with the premise of Attachments. Maybe now that I am a firm Rainbow Rowell fan, instead of a newbie skeptic, I can go back and reread it and love it better.

    • December 21, 2014 5:35 pm

      Maybe. I wonder if the premise you have an issue with seemed simpler in my day, because we didn’t know as many people virtually. If we read notes or mail not addressed to us, there was a person in our lives we’d have to answer to.
      I do not read mail addressed to my husband or children, even now. If it looks urgent, I text or skype the child to ask if I can open it and show it to them.

  4. December 21, 2014 10:23 am

    I went back and forth on this one. It ends up being charming, and you’re right, all of the email conversations are so fun and pitch perfect for friends like these. But the premise kind of creeped me out and it was hard to get over some of that to really like Lincoln. So, I don’t know. Thinking back on it made me more excited to read Eleanor and Park and Landline though!

    • December 21, 2014 5:32 pm

      I don’t really get why it’s creepy that he read the emails. Yes, he should have told them earlier than he did, but reading emails with the “flag” words they used is what he was hired to do. A creepy job does not equal a creepy person, necessarily. Perhaps I don’t really get this as an issue, because I’ve always told my students that the reason I became a writing teacher is because I’m nosy. If I get interested in a person, I want to read anything they write. The old “laundry list of a literary figure” joke was made about people like me.

  5. January 4, 2015 7:46 pm

    I love this book, for all the reasons you state. It’s just so fun and charming and their email conversations are just wonderful.

    • January 5, 2015 9:13 am

      Yes. I found some of the conversations between Jennifer and Beth charming, even though I’m not sure they struck me as entirely believable. (Buying baby clothes when she was that afraid of getting pregnant?)

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