Desert Isle Keeper
Rainbow Rowell has been sitting near the top of my “Authors I Need to Try Out” List for a while. I’ve heard very good things about her books (in spite of the fact that they only number three at present), and so when I saw that the eBook copy of Attachments was available from my library, I jumped at the chance to try out this new author. I am so, so glad I did.
For me, reading Attachments was an experience unlike that of reading any other book, due in a large part to the way it is set up. It’s the story of one man, Lincoln O’Neill. He works as a sort of IT guy at a newspaper, The Courier. Specifically, his job is to make sure that none of the newspaper staff use their work email for personal business. In order to do this, Lincoln has to read people’s mail. This makes him rather uncomfortable, but as he doesn’t have any other job at the moment, Lincoln does as he’s told.
Two of the people who seem to be flagged frequently (Lincoln only reads emails that are flagged as being likely to contain personal business) are Jennifer Scribner-Snyder and Beth Fremont. Although he apparently sent them a warning once, before the book began, they continue to chat with each other over email. In the beginning of the book Lincoln seems to intend to chastise them again, but it isn’t long before he acknowledges that he likes them too much to do that. However, Lincoln does continue to read their emails, even knowing that he won’t do anything about their contents.
I won’t lie—this premise made me fairly uncomfortable. I send out emails and other messages every day, and I know I’d be more than a little unnerved to realize someone else could read them. That said, Beth and Jen are aware that there is a mysterious person monitoring emails at The Courier, so it’s not quite the same situation. Also, their conversations are funny and very enjoyable, so I understand 100% why Lincoln didn’t want to give them up.
I spent a large part of this book wondering how and when things were going to get moving. Attachments does not proceed like a normal romance novel. Lincoln and Beth don’t actually talk to each other face-to-face until close to the end of the story. Their romance is almost a subplot in this book, which is really about Lincoln O’Neill getting a life. Lincoln—who begins the book as a 28-year-old hermit who lives with his mother—makes small, almost imperceptible changes to his routine throughout the story, until all of the sudden you look at him and realize he’s grown up and grown into himself.
I loved that. It was so well-written and realistic—almost everyone has undergone a somewhat similar transformation at some point, and I know it very rarely happens immediately. People change their lives one piece at a time, just as Lincoln did.
The other thing I absolutely loved about this book was falling in love with Beth alongside Lincoln. Normally, there is a sort of distance between the reader and the characters of a novel. Even when you read a book written in first-person, this distance exists. It is present every time the main character talks about how much they love/how much they’re charmed by their partner. By the simple fact of not being in a room with and actually meeting that partner, you are distanced from the characters. There are some aspects of people that you can only discover when meeting them face-to-face—charisma, for instance, is something you must experience for yourself. No description can equal the real thing.
Lincoln, as I said, doesn’t meet Beth until close to the end of the book. For the majority of the book, everything he knows about her comes from the contents of the emails she and Jen exchange. He doesn’t even know what she looks like. Since the reader has read all of the same emails that Lincoln has, you see the same Beth that he does. I cannot convey how different and wonderful this was—every time Lincoln mused about Beth’s innate kindness and wit, I knew what he meant. I wasn’t just sitting in the back of his head watching him experience these things, I was experiencing them right along with him.
This technique of using emails and little pieces of one person’s life to tell a story may not be perfect—for instance, I wish I was a little more certain of how Beth felt about Lincoln—yet I still must say that this was, for me, one of the most convincing romances I’ve read in a long time. Sure, the ending was a bit far-fetched. (What ending wouldn’t be, given that the story began with a guy spending months reading a girl’s personal emails without her explicit knowledge?)
At the end of the day, however, I was fully convinced that Lincoln fell in love with Beth based solely on what she said. He did not care how she looked, she never tried to charm him into liking her—all Lincoln knew was what Beth said to her friend Jen. Yet that was enough for him to love her. Personally, I felt that if I could be convinced of that, then Attachments deserved DIK status regardless of how odd its premise might be.