Sweet T Book Club Selection for July 2017

By Rainbow Rowell

Book Club Rating:  Mostly Thumbs Up

Sweet T’s Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Hey y’all!! I’m baaaack!!! It’s been a looong time since I blogged. Where have I been? I turned in my capstone project for my master’s degree in emerging media (the reason I started this web site in the first place), walked across the stage to get my diploma, and checked out (not necessarily in that order). Well, it was more like I gave out. I ran out of steam.

After years of hard work and intense study, I needed a break. I didn’t realize how much. Even though reading and sharing with you is a passion and something that makes me really happy, the concentrated focus of it wore me out.

What an accomplishment, though!!  Here’s me being all excited on stage!  Mission accomplished!!  Call me Master T!  Master Sweet?

I’ve also had a lot going on in my real job. Summer is the busiest time for my team as we have five full-time student interns working with us.  They are awesome!  They bring such energy and enthusiasm into the office!

I’ve still been reading, enjoying summer and riding my bike, but not running, even a sunshine and heat-loving Southern girl has her sweaty, so-humid-you-can’t-breath limits.

I feel great and I’m ready to get back to sharing my bookish thoughts all over the interweb! So now, here are my bubbling, random, thoughtful thoughts about July’s book club book, Landline by Rainbow Rowell.

First, the food.

Book clubs don’t HAVE to have gourmet chefs as members (especially if there is a Weigman’s nearby!) but I’m here to tell you, it is a super bonus! I’m not a great cook, (I’m willing to try) but my friends are awesome!

Jen, our hostess, found inspiration from the book and made comfort foods like Georgie’s mom made for her girls. She fed us well with tuna mac, subs, veggies and dip, chips, and cookies. Other feastly contributions were sushi, edamame/cranberry salad (Yum!), shredded kale and Brussels sprouts salad, cheesecake, homemade chocolate and nuts, and delicious pesto zucchini noodles. Oh and our Pampered Chef representative made Trisha Yearwood’s grape salad with brown sugar, walnuts and cream cheese. OMG.

Pesto Zucchini Noodle Recipe

3 zucchinis spiralized (can be raw or sauteed)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup Pesto Sauce:
2 cups fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup parmesan

* combine basil, garlic and pine nuts in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper and process for 30 seconds. Transferred to bowl and mix and cheese.

Pesto zucchini noodles

Over the summer, with folks on vacation and busy doing things, our gatherings are smaller. This time we were seven – what some would think of as a reasonable book club size instead of our usual 12 to 18! Haha! Maybe we should call ourselves a book mob (a book gaggle?)

We sat outside on Jen’s new deck, eating, and talking about life, laughing and enjoying each other, then, of course, we talked about the book.

What did we think?

I was surprised that everyone gave it some degree of thumbs up. Some were more middling than others but no one disliked it (but then, Elizabeth wasn’t there).

When I first read this book months ago, I liked it. To be honest, I didn’t love it but it was something I wanted to share with others. I wanted to ask about their thoughts on love and marriage and Rainbow Rowell’s dialog and characters and magic telephones to the past.

Rainbow Rowell Photo by Eric Francis for USA Today

I’ve read several of Rowell’s other books, most of them are young adult and they all have that flavor to them but the situations and ages of the characters are older. They’re all love stories about awkward geeky people. There are lots of pop-culture references. Eleanor & Park is great. Fangirl was fun. I really liked Attachments – the 80s style was so much fun. I like her style. She’s funny and good with dialog.

She does a great job of capturing the worries and anxieties that we all have – sometimes silly and sometimes warranted without making them feel overwrought. At least I think so. It’s a fine line. Almost all of us have those crazy neuroses but seeing them happen to someone in a story can sometimes be really annoying.

Sometimes timing can be a big factor where this is concerned. My first reading of Landline I was more patient. I tried to listen to it a second time as a refresher a few days before book club and I just couldn’t. It annoyed me some.

I realized there were a lot of tv and movie references that Gail wouldn’t get (She’s only seen 7 or 8 movies in her life). Some of them were: Back to the Future, M*A*S*H, Mork & Mindy, Barney Miller, Gossip Girl, and Quantum Leap.

Our Book Discussion

I always have some disucssion questions prepared but we didn’t really use them this time. I always prefer when our conversations are more organic, when one topic leads to another. I generally don’t consider anything off-limits for our conversations and when the conversation becomes less about the book, I, or someone always brings it back. I love that about our group. Everyone who comes has read the book or at least most of it. We talk about lots of other things for our first hour together, then we wholeheartedly talk about the book.

That’s a great segue – back to the book… we liked it. It is a story about Georgie McCool, who decides to spend the Christmas holidays staying in California to work while her family – her husband Neal and 2 young children – travel to his parents home in Nebraska. She wants to go with her family but this is her shot, her chance, she has to write scripts for her tv show, the show she has dreamed about doing for her whole life.

While he’s away, she can’t reach Neal on his cell phone. This sends her reeling. She didn’t think the separation was a SEPARATION. She didn’t think her choice to stay and work would lead to them breaking up. She realizes the stresses that have been on their relationship and how unhappy Neal has been.
She thinks about when they met in college and fell in love and how their lives together have evolved.

One of us compared it to What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty in that when someone is in a relationship, she gets so caught up in the present, short term situations, forgetting the past reasons that brought love together.

I asked everyone a two part question. Did you relate to Georgie? Did you like her?

I think most of us could relate to her, some as working women, working mothers, passionate about a career or a personal calling and having to balance that with a relationship, a family, the needs and desires of others.

But most of us weren’t big fans of her as a person. I threw out the idea of her as selfish but that wasn’t really how others said they would describe her.

Our opinions of Neal were also mixed. Most of us liked him a lot better as he got older. Maybe we liked him better as a husband and father than as an odd college student. It is interesting how Rainbow Rowell described him as big-eared, short, fat, hobbitty, pale, unlaughing and rarely smiling – rarely giving him traits that would make most people love him (or even like him). But Georgie was clearly attracted to him and fell in love with him. I think the author made him less attractive to us as the reader to emphasize the personal qualities of their attraction and love. They matched.

It contrasts to the ways they didn’t match. Georgie had a career as a Hollywood writer while he hated California and having to make small talk at parties. She wanted to impress people and he could care less about what others thought. He disliked her best friend and writing partner, Seth.

We didn’t really talk about Seth that much except one said she didn’t like him. We could have said a lot about him but we focused more on the primary story.

Georgie falls apart emotionally when Neal leaves. She can’t reach him on his cell phone and it causes her to question their relationship and wonder if his leaving is a bigger split than she first thought.

Enter the magical yellow rotary landline phone to the past. Some, including the publishers, say this makes this book science fiction – BALONEY!! It’s a story-telling device that lets Georgie tap into her memories to help her realize what she was taking for granted with Neal and to reconnect with him.
(Spoiler alert) The brilliance is that Present-Day Georgie talked to Past Neal at a time in their relationship when they were broken up, making Past Neal realize how much he loved her, that he couldn’t live without her and it led to him rushing back and proposing to her. AND at the same time, these conversations made Future Georgie realize how much she loved Neal and couldn’t live without him and led to her fly to Omaha to be with him and her daughters for Christmas.

SOOOOOO….during that whole time, neither had any conversations with each other in their current same time. Present-Day Georgie didn’t talk with Present-Day Neal and Past Neal didn’t talk to Past Georgie. Mind blown, right? I thought it was super fun. And not science fictiony at all! (For the record, I like science fiction but most of my book club girls do not. They don’t know what they’re missing).

So a magic phone to the past…who would you call? Most of our group wanted to talk to mothers or fathers who had passed to know more about their family history and to fill the holes in their lives or to warn them about decisions and preparations. One said she would call herself to put herself on a better track in her formative years.

I would call my Granmama ten years ago. She’s still alive but she’s in a nursing home and doesn’t talk on the phone much anymore. Ten years ago was the time when we talked almost every day. She was still living in her home and doing great. Mama had died several years before. Grandaddy had been gone a long time. We had each other most.

I would relive our old conversations or have new ones. Either would be wonderful. We talked about everything, current events, sports, relationships, the past when she was a girl, our family, our values. We laughed. Oh my goodness, how we laughed. She’s the funniest person in the whole world, not because she tells jokes but because she’s just funny. (It’s the same way my friend Gail is funny).

It’s not a case of not knowing what you had til it’s gone, I always knew what I had and I always knew it would end one day. We talked so much about life, about how it ends, how it’s not always what you expect but you have to move forward the best you can with what you have. That you have to choose to be happy, to be in the relationships you are in and to make them the best and to be the best you can be.

And oh boy did we talk about books! It’s taken this whole book club to fill some of that void. And I appreciate that, too.

I hope you enjoyed Landline and it made you think about things.

I had prepared some questions from the publisher. Here’s a link to them on a great web site, Litlovers.


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