Every now and then I discover that an author whose work I enjoy has a book out that I hadn’t known about (or had forgotten about or hadn’t gotten around to looking up or whatever). Such was the case when Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile recently made some reference on Twitter to Attachments as her favorite of Rowell’s books. Now, I really loved Fangirl and then to my surprise I quite liked Carry On too, and my response to her comment was to say, Oh right, Rowell, and look up Attachments.
Here’s the situation: Lincoln’s a guy in his mid or late twenties who’s kinda drifted into a job where he’s supposed to read the emails of everybody at this one newspaper and warn people to quit sending personal emails at work. Except given what they write to each other, he likes Beth and Jennifer, so he doesn’t want to issue them that warning even when their emails get flagged. Then he falls for Beth on the basis of her email exchanges with Jennifer. Awkward situation, you can see.
Now, this is an interesting story in a lot of ways. First, as far as I can tell, it’s unusual to tell a romance mostly from the guy’s pov. Second, about a third of the book is epistolary – emails, right? – and the rest is from Lincoln’s third-person pov. Not sure when I’ve ever seen a book with that kind of structure. Third, this may be the only romance I’ve ever read or even heard of where the two principals don’t actually meet as such until way late, practically at the end of the story. Lincoln knows Beth only through her emails to Jennifer; he doesn’t even know what she looks like for a really long time. Beth has seen him around but doesn’t know his name or job (Of course, or she would hardly be sending emails so freely). She thinks he’s cute but she’s too shy to talk to him. She and Jennifer refer to him as Beth’s Cute Guy in their emails.
How does all this work? Really well, actually. Besides his awful job, Lincoln’s surrounded by complicated relationships with family and friends. Jennifer is married to a great guy we never see in person. Beth is enmeshed with a boyfriend anybody can see is iffy. The story is one of those where everybody gets their lives more in order as events unfold. Also, Lincoln is totally believable as a guy who is introspective, a bit shy, somewhat awkward, and just an overall really nice guy. Jennifer’s description of the flat tire incident is wonderful, especially the bit with the french fries.
In real life, if a guy had been reading your personal emails for months and then confessed this, I expect that would be rather a bar to a future relationship. It is here, too, briefly. Rowell has to kind of deus ex this. But by the end I was so rooting for Lincoln and Beth that it worked for me.
My favorite of Rowell’s books? No, that’s still Fangirl, which now I want to re-read. But Attachments is delightful. Also, now that I think of it, I do want to try Eleanor and Park, about which I heard many good things back when it was published. Nothing about its description makes me think it’s the kind of story I’d love (“Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.”) But by this time, I’m pretty sure that I can’t go wrong with a book by Rowell.