I like the word play on Rainbow Rowell's novel Attachments. It could mean something you attach to your email. It could mean the attachments we make with friends. Or it could mean something of a more romantic nature. All of which come into play in her debut novel. I'm very remiss as Rainbow Rowell is a local author and it has taken me far too long to read any of her books. I remember when she was a columnist for our city newspaper and now she is known worldwide and has a string of successful novels behind her. I heard her speak several years ago and she is just as amiable and humorous as the characters in her novel. Attachments is a charming story, great fun in the telling and even more appealing since the setting was a thinly veiled Omaha circa 1999--just before the Y2K worries and lots of local happenings too, all of which I remember quite vividly.
This is a novel with a "meet cute" moment written all over it. When the characters do finally come together, and you hope and expect they will, it just has to be a meet cute or it would be too disappointing. The thing about this story is the characters "meet" but sort of unbeknownst to each other and only virtually. It's once of those "truth is stranger than fiction" occurrences.
I love the premise of the story. The setting is the offices of a local newspaper. Two young women work as staff writers in different department and they have a tendency to email each other rather humorous and perhaps slightly too personal emails. Beth and Jennifer have this wonderfully witty and amusing friendship and their affection for each other comes out in their epistolary conversations.
Lincoln, who works at night, is saddled with a job that is mindless easy but one which he has mixed feelings about. He was hired as a security officer in the technical department, which means he essentially has carte blanche to read the employees' emails. The security software marks questionable emails, which he must go in and check to make sure there is nothing inappropriate going on virtually. Beth's and Jennifer's lighthearted banters get the occasional checkmark, so Lincoln must follow up. He should be calling them out on their non-work-related emails, but he so enjoys their lively conversations he can't bring himself to take them to task.
Jennifer is happily married and contemplating starting a family. Her husband wants nothing more than to have a child, but Jennifer is uncertain. Beth is in a settled relationship with a highly attractive musician. It seems a dream relationship as the two are comfortably together, but the relationship seems to lack the spark that Beth wishes for. On top of that she has to be a bridesmaid in her sister's wedding and must endure wearing the worst and most unattractive dress ever. The two commiserate and laugh and try not to cry and it is easy to see how Lincoln would get absorbed in their lives.
You see where this is leading, don't you?
The story almost verges on the slapstick. If it was a movie (and why has nobody scooped this one up?) it would be a rom-com. There is this guilty voyeurism going on on both sides. Lincoln, unhappily single, begins to fall for Beth--a girl he has never actually met. Beth is unhappily paired and sees this rather cute guy around the building. She talks about him in her emails to Jennifer. Lincoln reads the emails and then . . . Neither is never quite sure the other is talking or thinking about the other. So it is a matter of missed opportunities and missed signals and conversations (maybe even the kind that go on in the privacy of your own mind) spoken at cross purposes.
See? Meet-cute. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and mostly light-hearted story filled with just a bit of drama. The biggest voyeur is, of course, the reader. I mean you read over the characters's shoulders. You know they have to meet, but how can it be pulled off without coming out a little predictable and cheesy. Rainbow Rowell manages it quite nicely. I thought there might be a stumble on the unraveling of the drama, but she is never tripped up. The story comes together quite nicely in the end, but you shouldn't take my word for it. If you've not read this yet, I can warmly recommend it. This was my September prompt, "dear diary, dear friend", a perfect modern take on the epistolary novel.