Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

By: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Plume
ISBN: 978-0452297548

About the book:

"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?


Remember when the internet was rather shiny and new, before it took over our phones and seemingly every aspect of our lives? Attachments is set in that brave new world of 1999, when the looming specter of Y2K had many worried that should the computers stop, so would life as we know it. Lincoln is a late twenty-something computer expert, hired to be the swing-shift internet security officer at The Courier, where instead of building firewalls he's tasked with reading every e-mail that gets flagged as "work inappropriate." When an e-mail is flagged, the sender is (supposed) to get a warning -- multiple violations leading to employment termination. But when e-mails from Beth (the film critic) and Jennifer (a copy editor) come across Lincoln's desk, he can't bring himself to turn them in for violating the newspaper's internet policy. To the lonely and lost Lincoln, their friendly, irreverent banter is a lifeline, and before he knows it he's become invested in the lives of two women he's never met, much less ever seen. The more time passes, the more Lincoln finds himself becoming invested in his unseen co-workers' lives, and falling in love with the romantically-challenged Beth. But can a relationship where two individuals have never met -- where Lincoln's work allowed him to "eavesdrop" on private conversations -- have any hope of a real-world future?

I cannot believe it's taken me so long to read this book. I feel as though I can barely articulate how much I adore Rowell's sparking, sunny, warm-hearted debut. Attachments made my heart positively sing. This frothy confection of a novel is the very definition of sheer, unmitigated reading joy -- Rowell stitches together late '90s nostalgia, wonderfully real, flawed and authentic characters, and creates perhaps the most refreshing, delightful boy-meets-girl story that I've ever read. I'm not even exaggerating -- this slim little volume hits all the right notes in my view, an absolute treasure and joy to read. Rowell alternates between Beth and Jennifer's e-mails and chapters in third-person from Lincoln's point-of-view. With roughly half the novel in epistolary format, as such it is an extremely fast-paced read. I think it was a stroke of brilliance to tell Beth and Lincoln's perspectives in two different formats, though we're somewhat more limited in Beth's perspective since it is more limited by the parameters of any particular e-mail. The prose chapters weave together the gradually-forming picture Lincoln begins to make of Beth, and how he responds to the humor and raw honesty in her missives sheds as much light on his character as the carefully meted-out backstory Rowell reveals through Lincoln's home life and reminscences. 

Given the fact that Lincoln gets to know Beth by essentially spying on her (nevermind that his job demands the intrusion), it's all the more amazing that Rowell has succeeded in crafting one of the sweetest, most winning romances I've ever read on the page. It's so refreshing to read a contemporary romance about genuinely nice individuals, characters who became almost friends. One can argue that Attachments is predictable, but I would counter by saying that its the best kind of predictable you could hope to meet. We *know* the happy ending is coming -- it's required by the tenets of the genre -- but the charm and appeal is in how Rowell takes the reader on Lincoln and Beth's journey. The fact that these characters are so nice, so authentic, so genuine, is what kept me turning pages, cheering for their triumphs, aching for their heartbreaks. Rowell's compelling, well-drawn characters, coupled with a razor-sharp sense of humor and snappy prose transforms what could have been just another run-of-the-mill, standard boy-meets-girl story into something sparkling and memorable, a standout for its warmth and heart.

I finished this book a few days ago and unlike my norm, I couldn't bring myself to review it right away. This was a story that wended its way deep into my heart, a treasure to savor. And frankly, in re-reading this review I feel like I've barely touched on the magic and charm of Attachments. I adored this book. From the opening e-mail to its swoon-worthy conclusion, this novel captivated my imagination as I lost myself in Rowell's winningly retro debut. Her charming novel is a treasure sure to speak to any romantic's heart, running the emotional gamut from heart-wrenching to laugh-out-loud funny (I literally couldn't stop smiling the entire time I read this book). Attachments is a love letter to dreamers, a joy-filled world I loved losing myself in and can guarantee I'll revisit at the earliest opportunity. This one's a keeper. :)


Kristin said...

Wow...I think I'm going to have to read this. :)


Unknown said...

@Kristin - Girl, I love this book so much. SO MUCH. It is on my Kindle but I'm actually buying a paperback copy because I NEED this book on my shelves. :)