I fell in love with my future husband through email in the year 2000. If I were a Jane Austen heroine, it would have been missives written with a quill by candlelight by Mr. Raphael and Miss Clapp, but in our case, it was the then-fairly-new phenomenon of an online dating site, the odd screen-names of “poewhit” and “bookchick”, and the far-less romantic electronic bits and bytes, zeroes and ones.
No matter. As one of my favorite writers, the weird genius George Saunders, said in an interview, “The basis for literature is the fact that all of our brains are essentially, structurally, identical. First love in 1830, in Russia, beneath swaying pines, is neurologically identical to first love in 1975, back of a Camaro, Foghat blaring.”
In other words, despite my lack of bonnet and carriage, quill pens and candlelight: Elizabeth Bennet, c’est moi.
Nevertheless: the year 2000, computers and email addresses, love. I’m sure this is one reason I was predisposed to enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s lovely novel, Attachments, which is set in 1999 and 2000 and prominently features email as an instrument of falling-in-love, though not exactly in the way I’d experienced or a reader would expect. (The male romantic lead does fall in love with the female romantic lead through email… but by reading her emails to others, as part of his job as IT administrator.)
But details like that are just window-dressing, and had Attachments been nothing more, it would have dropped into the Forgettable Book black hole.
Fortunately, Attachments landed on the Delightful Book special shelf instead, and while it definitely has crowd-pleasing elements of quirky humor and an unusual love story, it’s so much more than that. Unlike other potato-chip books – you know, enjoyable in the moment but not exactly nutritious – it’s a fresh look at the “attachments” of family and friendship as well as romantic love. The narrative voice is engaging and unique, and frankly, I laughed out loud reading it that I scared the cat out of the room more times than I can count.