Rereading Rainbow: “Attachments”

Attachments is Rainbow Rowell’s first novel. It follows Lincoln, an IT type whose job at an Omaha newspaper is to dole out warnings for people who use their work computers improperly because “. . . giving employees Internet access was like giving them the option to work if they felt like it, look at porn if they didn’t” (p. 10). Sure, he does other things, like set up printers, but his main job is to scan emails that get flagged. This is how he ends up reading a lot of emails sent between columnist Beth and Features copy editor Jennifer, best friends who spend a lot of time talking about boys—mostly Beth’s emotionally absent rocker boyfriend Chris and Jennifer’s baby-crazy husband Mitch. Lincoln knows he’ll never send them a warning; he loves the way they interact. Plus he’s starting to fall for Beth, the first girl he’s had real feelings for since the messy end of the relationship with his high-school sweetheart all those years ago (he’s 29). But how do you justify falling in love with someone you’ve never met or seen? And how do you get them to love you back?

I was interested to see how my reread of Attachments would go. Of all Rainbow’s books, this was the only one where I didn’t have a set scene in mind that I was eagerly waiting for. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything about the book that stood out to me; I could recall a lot of scenes. It’s just that what stood out to me the most wasn’t one singular thing—it was the overall feel of the Beth+Jennifer of it all. They are like bizarro versions of me and my best friend to the point where it’s almost chilling! My best friend dreams of being a columnist (for music, whereas Beth is movies) and she once dated a guy named Chris; I’m a married copy editor (although both Super Hubs and I are baby crazy). They work together at the paper; I met my best friend at the college newspaper we both worked for. Jen has a tendency to think in these dangerously spiraling thought clouds, which is basically my signature move. Most of my notes are things like “OMG this is SO us” or “I’m pretty sure we’ve had this exact conversation before.” It’s uncanny. I mean, obviously lots of people with best friends will feel this way, so I’m not saying that Rainbow is spying on us or anything . . . but I’m not NOT saying it.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s more about Lincoln than Beth or Jennifer. Even though about half of the story is told through the email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer, we don’t get to follow them home and hear their private thoughts. So this is a story about Lincoln and his quest to find balance in his life.
After the break-up with his high-school girlfriend, Sam, Lincoln kind of drifted. He spent a LOT of time in school, earning various degrees. It never really goes into how many degrees he has, or what they’re in, which is disappointing because I’m beyond curious. But he has enough that it’s a cause of concern for his mother and older sister, the only constant women in his life (who are constantly bickering). They think that he cocooned in the wake of the break-up, never reaching the potential they know he has. He’s a smart guy; why is he being so dumb about a silly old break-up? But like any teen lead in a high-school love story, Lincoln was convinced that they would be together forever, and like any teen lead in a high-school love story, he was beyond devastated when he discovered that Sam didn’t feel the same way.

I found myself relating to Lincoln a lot as well. All his high-school sappiness about true love was a sad but true reminder of myself.
The beginning of Chapter 35 is about the aftermath of Lincoln’s break-up with Sam and how he didn’t like talking about it because he knew that would make it like any other high-school sweetheart break-up. To the people outside the relationship, “. . . the saddest part of the whole story was that he missed a semester of school and lost all his scholarships.” While that exact thing didn’t happen to me, there are some parallels I could draw.
And like Jennifer and myself, he has a tendency to think too much. On page 152, he thinks about how his adrenaline from morning work outs is drained by around six or seven p.m.,  “. . . when it was usually overtaken by the feeling that he was just bouncing haplessly from one situation to the next without any real purpose or direction,” and I can most certainly relate to that. Well, not to the working out part . . .

Actually, I JUST remembered a part that I was kind of looking forward it. I forgot about it because it was a funny connection between the book and my life that ended up getting RUINED (by life, not by the book).
So Lincoln starts hanging out with this old friend of his named Justin. Naturally, Justin is the fratty friend who loves ’em and leaves ’em. The first night that the two start hanging out again, Justin picks up a girl named Dena. Later on in the story, Lincoln and Justin are talking about how the latter more or less broke up with Dena because she wanted to be exclusive. But Lincoln sees through all the posturing that Justin really wants to be with her, so he tells Justin to stop being a dumbass and go get it. It ends quite well for them.
Interestingly enough, Super Hubs almost had the exact same thing happen to him. He has a work friend who was an established playboy (but likely without the money). Said friend started to regularly hook up with one girl, and he would frequently tell Super Hubs how disturbed he was by the fact that he actually liked this girl and wanted to spend time with her. My fella, being the kind of person he is (which is apparently a bit of a Lincoln), told him to stop being an idiot and just be with the girl. So Work Friend started dating the girl.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out as well for them . . . But when it WAS working, I was thrilled by how much like a Rainbow book my life was turning out to be. Apparently that feeling was not meant to last. Oh well. Maybe I’ll find a magic phone during a fight with S.H. and then I can have a Landline experience.


That’s actually pretty much everything I have to say about Attachments. In addition to being the first, it’s also the shortest of Rainbow’s books. Plus, many comments that I made reflect things that I feel about all four books, so I will save them for my last post. Although with all the insanely positive things I will have to say about Eleanor and Park, I might need a whole other post for the lessons I’ve learned and patterns I’ve noticed across the books . . . I’ll have to think about that!

One other short thing I could say is that I love that Attachments is partially an epistolary novel. I love those. During an online Q&A, I actually asked Rainbow what drew her to write it that way. She said it was because she felt like she was better at writing dialogue, so it was a comfort-zone choice more than anything else. The more you know! I can’t believe she thought she wasn’t good at the regular narrative part! Silly girl. She’s amazing at it!