Attachments*, by Rainbow Rowell, tells an odd love story with perfect comic timing, beautiful writing, and an innate understanding of what real love and relationships are all about. Here's the summary from Goodreads: "Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.
When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.
But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.
Written with whip-smart precision and charm, Attachments is a strikingly clever and deeply romantic debut about falling in love with the person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Even if it's someone you've never met."
Attachments achieves that rare thing of having characters that are completely relatable, real, and likeable. Lincoln is a quiet man who feels things deeply and lives a very insular life. It takes him a long time to realize that he needs and wants to change his life, which includes everything from moving out of his mother's house and having a job that doesn't break down his spirit and sense of right and wrong to admitting his feelings for the one woman who he thinks he can never have.
Lincoln is a sensitive, kind soul, but he still comes off the page as completely real and believable. I even found myself falling for Lincoln just a little bit, even though I knew he was a character in a book. In many ways, Lincoln is an idealized yet completely realistic man: he loves long and hard (seemingly challenging Anne Elliot's claim that women love longest when all hope is gone), he falls in love for all the right reasons, he is honest, compassionate, and tender, and he has a refreshingly frank and simple approach to himself and his life; on the other hand, he does some incredibly stupid things, he is a bit slow on the uptake, his confidence in himself is almost nil for most of the book, and he can be complacent, hesitant, and altogether too passive. All these things, however, combine to paint a romantic hero more boy-next-door than idealized prince.
As I was reading the email exchanges, with Lincoln, between Jennifer and Beth, I felt like I was reading the emails of real people. These two women are self-confident, brash, rude, kind, silly, and supportive, and I kept thinking to myself, "I want to be friends with them!" I also kept thinking about my former roommate and I. We didn't email at work nearly as much as Jennifer and Beth, but when we did email, they were epic, and I knew that, more often than not, I should NOT read them while students were in the room because I would probably end up laughing uproariously. She has similar stories. We would, however, email while we were at home; there was one particularly memorable time when we facebook messaged each other back and forth for thirty minutes while sitting in the same ROOM! Some might find this disturbing or pathetic; I prefer to think of it as charming and adorable. And while we may not have talked about the same things that Jennifer and Beth did, our emails and messages always had the same comradery, deep affection, and caring as Jennifer and Beth's even when they, like Jennifer and Beth's, were at their snarkiest. Rowell captures the tones and nuances of friendship between two smart women perfectly, and you can't help but root for both of them.
Jennifer, Beth, and Lincoln were all wonderful, and I could totally understand all three of them at various points throughout the novel. Even the quirky characters (Lincoln's mom and sister, Lincoln's Dungeons & Dragons buddies, Lincoln's co-workers, and the oh-so-appealing but oh-so-despicable Chris) are real and just jump off the page.
I know that many have classified this book as light reading or weekend reading, but I found it profound, insightful, and meaningful. The writing was wonderful, and I found myself doing two things that I almost never do while reading: laughing out loud and crying. Reading is a highly internalized experience for me, which is why I think I so rarely have external reactions to what I am reading. I may smile internally or think, "that's funny!"; I may feel my stomach twist because something I just read is almost unbearably sad, poignant or touching; for these experiences to leap accross that divide between my most internal experience of a book and my external interactions with the world, they must be extreme: extremely funny, extremely moving, extremely horrifying. Attachments did this: it was so visceral and real that I couldn't help but experience it beyond the internal.
This is one of those books that I want EVERYONE to read; I want to buy lots of copies and indiscriminately give it away; I want to email everyone I know and tell them to read this book. This is the first book of the year that I KNEW, as soon as I finished it, would make my top reads of the year. Considering it's only May, that is high praise indeed.
So please. Do yourself a favor. Check out this quirky read, be pulled into the world of The Courier, and enjoy the ride. But set aside some time: once you start it, you won't want to put it down.
Thanks to Wallace for reviewing this! I never would have found it otherwise!