What I most love about Rainbow Rowell’s books (among with their wit, emotional resonance, perfect zeitgeist and so on) is that they make me feel like there’s a place for people like me, my husband, and my friends in romance. Not that either of her first two books is a romance in the genre sense, but I certainly don’t care.
This story alternates between two narrative styles. Half is told in the form of chatty emails between two coworkers at a newspaper, Beth and Jennifer. The other is from the point of view of Lincoln, the guy in charge of reading any company emails that send red flags, and then reprimanding the senders. But Lincoln loves the funny, interesting emails so much, he can’t bear to make them stop, or to stop reading them.
Jennifer is married, Beth is… kind of wishing she was too, but her ultra-cool musician boyfriend isn’t into it. And Beth is the one who becomes increasingly important to Lincoln.
She and Jennifer were both funny, both caring, both smart as whips. But Beth’s whip always caught him by the ankle.
He loved the way she put on kid gloves when Jennifer talked about her marriage and Mitch. He loved the way she riffed on her siblings and her bosses and herself. He tried not to love that she could recite scenes from Ghostbusters and could name all of the original X-Men — because those seemed like reasons a guy would fall for a girl in a Kevin Smith movie.
It’s lovely to see geeky characters who are neither made fun or nor idealized. Lincoln, who’s never quite recovered from being dumped by his first love, would look like a total loser on paper — underemployed, lives with his mother, still plays Dungeons and Dragons with his college friends. But he has enduring qualities like loyalty, sincerity, intelligence, and respect for love and relationships. So do his college friends, who would be a bunch of stereotypical dweebs played for laughs elsewhere. Most of them are married, some to each other; they have homes and kids. They still play games because they really like playing games. I was never much of a gamer, but most of my friends were/are, and I appreciate seeing that reality portrayed.
The book is mainly about Lincoln’s journey to full adulthood, as he finally starts to let go of the past and blossom as a single guy, and it shows us why he’s an awesome person. He’s so tender and has so much to give; he cares in all the right ways. We don’t see Beth other than in her emails until the end, but they show her humor and kindness, and the need she has for someone like Lincoln in her life.
This was my second read of Attachments — reading Rowell’s latest book Eleanor and Park made me want to reread it — and on this reading I was struck by a minor subplot about a bar-hopping player type and a woman he picks up. Romantic Lincoln thinks it would be impossible to find true love in a bar, but in fact that presumed one-night stand turns into a genuine relationship. I really liked how Rowell included a very different type of person, pursuing companionship in a very different type of way, but gave him just as happy an ending. Yes — I won’t say how it works out, but the book does have a happy ending.
I gave Attachments 5 stars on the first reading; I think I liked it slightly less on the second, because I read it too soon after Eleanor and Park, but I’m not changing the grade — it’s an amazing book. You can buy it from Amazon here.
Published by Dutton. Review copy borrowed from the library.
P.S. I can’t write anything about geeks without including this video. It’s the law.