Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: July 8, 2014
Rating: ★★.5 or ★★★
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.
Maybe that was always besides the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
Georgie finally catches a big break in her TV writing — an opportunity to write the show she and her college best friend Seth have been planning for over a decade — but it’s due a few days after Christmas. Her husband, Neal, is not too thrilled she can’t join him and their daughters in Omaha for the holiday, and leaves without her. Frustrated, tired, and confused, Georgie attempts to contact him to make sure their marriage isn’t ruined, but Neal won’t answer her calls. At least, not modern day Neal. When Georgie uses her mother’s old landline phone to call Neal’s mother’s landline, she winds up speaking to the Neal she fell in love with, the Neal of 1998, shortly before he proposed to her. This is her chance to fix her marriage, or alter history.
It breaks my heart a little inside that my rating is so low for this book. It has absolutely nothing to do with Rowell and her writing and everything to do with the characters. And that’s where the stickler comes in. I’ve spoken to other bloggers and booksellers, and there’s a difference between younger, mainly single people’s opinions of the book (rather low) and older, married people’s opinions (rather high). I genuinely think there’s a specific audience for this book because of that. The younger, mainly single group really liked Georgie’s flashbacks to college and modern day Georgie talking to 1998 Neal passages. The Neal and Georgie of not-yet-married. Young love is thrilling and exciting and wonderful, and you begin to see how hard they work to make the relationship last. The Neal and Georgie of the modern day are distant, seemingly unloving, and appear to only be together to keep their daughters happy. It’s a sad, exhausting situation, yet many long-time married readers understood it. The married readers enjoyed the whole book because it reminded them of why they fell in love with their spouse, and how hard they work to continue that partnership.
Despite understanding that, Neal and Georgie’s characters frustrated me. Mostly Georgie. Her family means the world to her yet she does next to nothing to contribute to their happiness other than bring home paychecks. I could sympathize with Neal’s near-silence towards her. I come from a stay-at-home-Dad-and-working-Mom family, and I can tell you that my mother and father took equal share in raising us and taking care of the home. I really don’t think that’s the issue here. It’s Georgie’s promises to be better and not following through. Her anxiety is sky-high and yet she doesn’t acknowledge it or accept it, which in turn ruins her marriage. I wanted to shake her and tell her to snap out of it, wake up, and look at what’s happened before it’s too late.
The phone was the star of the book. I dragged through all the TV script writing scenes with Seth — Seth, I really liked Seth — and the Mom-and-sister drama scenes and looked forward to the phone. The phone made everything worth it.
Rowell did not write a poor book. She wrote a genuine book with authentic characters. Not everyone you meet will be good, likable people — and that’s not to say they’re bad, either. Not everyone’s lives, especially love lives, work out the way they hope, the way they imagine. I understand that completely. The protagonist doesn’t need to be likable and relatable, just authentic. Georgie and Neal are authentic, but I simply believe that my life experiences (and lack thereof) prevented me from liking them and sympathizing their situation. But their story of young love? And this magical phone? Loved it. I understand that. I understand thinking about the what ifs and how we might be able to change history. I understand wondering whether the person you’re deeply in love with right now is truly the one for you forever and ever. Those portions of the story I loved.