“I want someone whose heart is big enough to hold me.”
This book about love and emails (possibly my two favorite things) is so good and beloved to me that the only words I can find to describe the experience of reading it are from the book itself: “There are moments when you can’t believe something wonderful is happening. And there are moments when your entire consciousness is filled with knowing absolutely that something wonderful is happening.”
I happened to pick up Attachments at the Housing Works bookstore in NYC one day when waiting for an author event with Gayle Forman, Libba Bray, and E. Lockhart. That’s right everyone, jealous? I do that all the time! (I am sadly lying. It was an exciting event that my friend and I nerded out over and I wrote it to sound pretentious.) But I say it because maybe their amazing-author vibes are what led me to find this holy grail of a book. It was on sale, and I bought it because I saw Rainbow – that’s right, I’m on first name terms with her in my head – had written it and I love her books for their concepts, cute jokes, laid-back style and woodsy men.
It’s her least-well-known book, but the one she has a special attachment to (har dee har) because it was her debut, an adult novel (I’ve now reviewed 2 adult books in a row. Am I becoming an adult?! YA I’ll never leave you!!!) about a guy falling in love with his coworker over reading her email. Is it the most creepy pretense you’ve ever read? YES! But is it also every writer girl’s dream and the most romantic thing you can think of? Doubly yes! I love You’ve Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner, but I think Attachments really consumed me, heart and soul. I passionately love this book because it is essentially a look at the many types of love: first love, second love, family love, love for your kids, love for your best friends, love for yourself, slightly creepy love…Basically, it’s heartfelt, heart-warming, and many other words with the word “heart” in it. I’m getting cheesy and the review hasn’t even begun!
OFFICIAL BOOK SUMMARY:
“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained and captivated by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?”
Rainbow Rowell doesn’t hesitate to leap into awkward and I think it’s what has made her so successful as a writer. I love her premises – a book about a fangirl writing online fanfiction, a book about a guy reading peoples’ emails and falling in love through them – because they are so creepy and awkward and funny and relatable that they strike at everyone’s core. Additionally, her dialogue is witty, and her writing has this slow charm. As in, I could read pages on end about Lincoln eating food and still be captivated.
Though this is an ‘adult’ book, the only thing that makes it adult is the age of the characters. Of course, their concerns are not 16-year-old concerns, but it is exceedingly wholesome. Though the concepts and thoughts presented in this book about love and relationships are mature because they are so deep, Lincoln as our hero begins as seemingly immature. He lives at home and spends his time playing video games with his old college friends. In fact, a lot of the scenes are him eating pie at a diner while he thinks about his life and a past love. Lincoln is ADORABLE. The book starts with him being hired as an internet security officer at a newspaper company. He works the night shift, where he monitors emails. I am an ardent Lincoln supporter because he starts the book off as a loser. And losers definitely have the funniest observations. Also, anyone who can appreciate email conversations between two hilarious ladies is a dream in my book.
“I think I missed my window.”
“My get-a-life window. I think I was supposed to figure all this stuff out somewhere between twenty-two and twenty-six, and now it’s too late.”
He lives with his strict mother, but he’s 28. He has several degrees and not a huge social life. He’s dorky, wholesomely nice, and he looks like a lumbering woodsman, but he doesn’t know where his life is going. Lincoln’s POV is refreshing; he’s a man without purpose who knows it, and he’s also a creeper who knows it. (Which begs the question, is he really a creeper if he knows he’s a creeper? Right? Doesn’t it cancel out?) The book also focuses on Lincoln’s self-development as he works on himself and his life throughout the book. He actively tries to have more of a life and passion and put himself out there. It’s very cute, a little sad, and somewhat identifiable to read about. I haven’t read about many of these characters among all the YA I’ve been consuming, which are full of characters raging against the system and fighting for love, etc. etc. Attachments, however, is a “fight for love,” albeit in a much more charming, slow-paced way.
“What did he have to mope about, really? What more did he want?…Love. Purpose. Those are the things that 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?”
At work, he finds two employees, Beth and Jennifer, whose emails are flagged because they are always personal in content. Beth and Jennifer are two nearly-thirty-year-old writers who exchange emails ranging from Brad Pitt to Beth’s rocker boyfriend and Jennifer’s pregnancy fears. At first, he peruses the emails, amused, but doesn’t report them. But after a while, he becomes captivated by their stories and even intrigued by Beth. And by the time he falls for her, he’s way too over his head to even figure out what he’d say if they met.
The style of this book is cute, in that a quarter to a half of it consists of Beth and Jennifer’s emails. They’re witty, entertaining and, like any emails between best friends would be, strike at your heart. Honestly, you relate to their emails, in terms of tone and topics – it felt like I was reading the nonsensical but important email discussions between my own best friend and I. If you’re into romantic movies, it’s great because Beth is a movie reviewer so a good portion of the book is full of movie references (most of which we’ve reviewed on this very blog!). It’s also got this great 90s charm since it takes place in the late 90s. What’s not to love?
Beth’s boyfriend (who sweet, sweet Lincoln even meets at one point because this is a small-town Rainbow Rowell book) is a charismatic musician who she loves. But he is only there for her, happy and engaging 25% of the time, and the other 75% of the time, he’s angsty and withdrawn and she just has to deal with it. He’s one of those people that you live with because when they’re happy, they bring brilliant light to your life. And when they’re not, which is a lot more common, you feel a lot less secure. Beth relates her relationship to the one she had with a bakery that was closed for most of the year – when it was open, she ran down to buy everything from the store. And when it was closed, she waited and pined for it to open again. I really dislike love stories about amazing charismatic people like that, because I would hate to be waiting around for that person to decide to “see me” again.
Jennifer and her extremely steady husband are a foil to Beth’s unpredictable romance. In the end, Beth sees that what Jennifer has – a caring, quiet, loving (so great that Beth berates her for complaining) husband – is better than her intense, difficult boyfriend. Beth’s boyfriend always needs his space, and things are always wild, energetic and spontaneous. It’s excruciating and addicting. That sort of love is painted as a lot more enthralling and passionate than other love stories, but at the end of the day, I think always feeling loved is more important than only feeling it a handful of amazing times. And I think Rowell really underlines this point.
When I’m at work, I send long reports to my friends about the cute guys I see but of course never talk to (even though our love stories are so good. Sigh. If only they were aware of them!). So I loved that Beth does the same in this book. At some point, she notices Lincoln at work and dubs him her “cute guy,” and emails Jennifer about him weekly. Of course, Lincoln – sweet, sweet Lincoln- sees these emails and can’t believe she’s talking about him. It’s a roller coaster of adorable. Just when you think you’re choked up in cuteness Rowell hits you again!
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
Like Rowell’s other books, Attachments is full of quirky and relatable characters. I would describe them as subtly endearing. It by all means seems like it should be a dull book, because of how Lincoln is described (thinking about joining the gym or going out once a week with an old friend is the most exciting part of his life in the beginning) but it is full of life and humor. It also kept you wondering how the love story could possibly pan out. And I have to say, Rowell kept me in suspense and did a very good job. It was the perfect balance of “this would never happen” and “whoa, that was somehow realistic.” (Has it given me hope that I will fall in love over email? Sadly, yes…) The secondary characters are enjoyable and propel Lincoln in his story; the dialogue is also extremely relatable. The lives and worries of people in their late-20s was appealing and thought-provoking.
Overall, the book is just about every person’s basic wish for love and to be loved. Rainbow convinces you that the love to truly swoon over in real life is the constant love from a normal, sweet guy. In other words, the nice guys next door > magnetic, mysterious type. Even though Taylor Swift is an advocate for the passionate frenzy-love at 2 am in some of her songs: “But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain/And it’s 2 am and I’m cursing your name,” Rainbow Rowell points out that the guy who opens your car door, loves your writing and is just super into you might be more of a catch.
I fell so much in love with this book (maybe you could not tell) that I practically jumped out of my seat at Book-Con this year to ask Rainbow Rowell a question about Attachments during a panel she spoke at (if you wanted to know, she was hilarious. I wanted her to be my bosom friend.) Someone falling in love with you from reading your email means that person loves you for your mind; your thoughts, your words, your dreams. To me, it’s the truest and ideal and perfect love, and I asked Rainbow why she wrote about it and if she thought it could ever really exist. Her answer was that Lincoln’s love for Beth is every writer girl’s dream, and it’s a fantasy, but a beautiful one at that.
If this hasn’t convinced you to buy this book now, I’ll end off with a discussion between our clever heroine Beth and her best friend:
“Oh, I love period dramas, especially period dramas starring Colin Firth. I’m like Bridget Jones if she were actually fat.”
“Oh… Colin Firth. He should only do period dramas. And period dramas should only star Colin Firth. (One-star upgrade for Colin Firth. Two stars for Colin Firth in a waistcoat.)
“Keep typing his name, even his name is handsome.”
Amen, Rainbow Rowell. Amen.
Content Note: There is some strong language in Attachments.
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”
Are you going to read this right now so that your heart will burst with quiet joy? Have you read and loved any of Rainbow’s other books and can’t wait to get your hands on her latest, Carry On? Comment below!
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