Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2011, Plume
Genre: Adult Romance, Realistic Fiction
Money and time, those were the two things that he always heard people complaining about, and he had plenty of both. There wasn’t anything Lincoln wanted that he couldn’t afford...
What more did he want? Love, he could hear Eve saying. Purpose. Love. Purpose. Those are the things you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
Lincoln, Jennifer, and Beth all work for the Courier newspaper during the end of the twenty-first century in Omaha, Nebraska. Beth and Jennifer are good friends and continue their conversations through their work emails during the day. Neither of them knows Lincoln, but he’s getting to know each of them very well, as his job for IT is essentially reading through all the work emails that get flagged and issuing warnings to the senders.
When Jennifer and Beth’s emails start getting flagged, Lincoln knows that he should send them both warnings, but the messages are so interesting that he doesn’t at first. He loves their friendship with each other, and is starting to fall for Beth himself. But he’s never even met Beth, and certainly can’t introduce himself as the person who looks forward to reading her private messages each day.
Much like protagonist Lincoln, Attachments is not so easily defined. Lincoln still lives at home with his mother, works the night shift, and spends his weekend playing Dungeons & Dragons with his friends. Yet he’s far removed from the stereotypical nerd, tall and strong and attractive. His loner status, more than anything else, is self-applied. Much like Lincoln’s unconventionality, this is a romance that develops in a most atypical way, through words alone for one person, through looks alone for the other. Nevertheless, the romance is sweet, heartfelt, and easy to root for. And like Lincoln, Attachments is an unassuming little book. It doesn’t expect its readers to necessarily love it, yet it’s genuine and so very good that I could not help enjoying it.
The story is told in alternating formats. A bit more than half the novel is told from protagonist Lincoln’s perspective and revolves around his daily life, both during work and outside of it. A good chunk of the novel is also told directly through the emails that Jennifer and Beth exchange with one another, which readers are actually reading along with Lincoln. These two formats actually work very well within this novel, as, for the majority of the story, the only information Lincoln does have about Jennifer and Beth is what they write to one another through these messages. Readers thus have the opportunity to see not only how the messages influence Lincoln’s understanding of these two women, but also to use the limited information available to form their own opinions about Jennifer and Beth.
More than anything else, Attachments is about the messiness and complexity of the relationships we form. For Lincoln, this is demonstrated primarily through his family ties. He lives with his mother out of convenience, but also because he’s afraid of what will happen to both of them if he leaves. Mostly because of his current job, he feels as if his entire life is stalled, and so is torn between the ease of staying at home and the knowledge that his sister Eve’s advice about needing to leave in order to move on with his life has some merit. Much like Lincoln, Beth is feels tied down by a questionable long-term relationship, and Jennifer grapples with potential changes to the structure of her family. All of their issues have a ring of truth to them, and all are therefore easy to empathize with.
Attachments explores the intersection between what we owe to others and what we owe to ourselves. It asks how our relationships define us as people. And it does this through an unconventional love story that feels both genuine and right.
I really liked Attachments, even more than I thought that I would. It contains the perfect balance of humor, romance, and introspection. If Rainbow Rowell writes any future books in a similar vein, I will certainly read them.
Rating: 4 stars