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.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Rainbow Rowell is kind of a big deal right now, and with good reason. Her two YA books – Eleanor and Park and Fangirl – have been receiving tonnes of acclaim for their smart, sassy and yet poignant writing (John Green counts himself a fan, as per his NY Times book review of E& P). While discussing her rise, and the long lineups to meet her at BEA for a copy of Fangirl with my friends at Penguin, they reminded me that Penguin had the rights in Canada for her earlier book, Attachments, and asked if I would be interested in reading it. Of course I said “yes”, and thanks to the kindness of LM, I received a copy in the mail.
“Attachments” is an earlier adult novel for Rowell – Goodreads has it listed as a 2011 release, although my copy is a 2012 edition. It’s the story of Beth and Jennifer, two friends who communicate via the work email system, and Lincoln, the IT guy who works nights and finds himself inexplicably drawn to reading their daily communications. There’s a lot about this novel that foreshadows the good things that will appear in Eleanor and Park and in Fangirl. There’s realistic and honest relationships such as the ones between Beth and Jennifer, some fabulous pop-culture referencing throughout the text, enough snarky humour to keep you laughing throughout and even moments where the emotion turns on a dime to leave you sighing.
For me, however, Rowell’s strength lies in her development of Lincoln. He’s the only character that we really get to know intimately, as the story is told via his own perspective and the emails of the two women. It’s easy to see why he falls for the two of them, as they are obviously great friends and pretty hysterical in their conversations with each other. Lincoln is a lonely man, who has not yet found his place in the world. He’s followed his previous girlfriend to school, only to be left behind when she moved on, and he now lives back with his mother (much to his sister’s dismay). He’s also started – but never finished – several degrees, thus resulting in his current occupation of a nighttime IT clerk, charged with observing and passing judgement on the daytime staffers at the local paper.
I loved the character of Lincoln. He seems so lost, returning home to live with his mother, and unsure of who he is and what he is capable of doing. By following the lives of Beth and Jennifer, he slowly becomes more confident and even ventures out with his friend Justin (who I adore, in a “Night at the Roxbury” kind of way) more and more. I especially loved how Lincoln begins to make connections with people again, including the quirky Doris, whom he meets in the break room. He begins by sharing his mother’s cooking, and it grows from there. This is the healthy parental affectionate relationship that he has avoided with his mother, and the one that gives him the courage and confidence to regroup and move on.
The time period was a little screwy at first – it’s set right around the time of Y2K, so some of the younger readers may have a little searching to do on Wikipedia to figure out just why this was such a big deal. However, for those of us who are not under 20 (ahem), it brought back vivid memories of planning and guessing what might happen (spoiler alert: nothing, actually). That the story takes place over a series of months, rather than the InstaLove ™ of a few days makes the connection that much more real, and when things come to a head and all is revealed between Lincoln and Beth, it’s much more believable to accept their eventually ending (c’mon, did you really think I was going to spoil it for you?).
Overall I’m really happy that I read this. While I don’t know what order Rainbow Rowell wrote her books, I can see where and how Rowell has developed as an author and it makes me appreciate not only this book but the later published books that much more. Her strengths lie in her characters and her dialogue, as you connect and cheer for them from page one. I can’t wait to see what she will write next.
Attachments is published by Penguin in Canada, and by Dutton Adult in the US. A copy was provided by the Canadian publisher because they are good people with excellent taste, and we have a shared interested in Rainbow Rowell. No review was expected, but I’m doing one because I wanted to – no money changed hands. Attachments may be purchased through Indigo, Amazon and your friendly indie bookseller. ISBN:9780525951988, 323 pages.