Lincoln had his heart broken by his first, high school girlfriend. He’s now back living with his mother and working nights in IT security for a newspaper. The paper just put in internet connections, and since the higher-ups are nervous about employees wasting time surfing, everything is being monitored. (I should mention that the book is set in 1999, which gives it an entertaining layer of retro references and avoids the despair that would permeate any story of newsroom journalists today.)
That’s how Lincoln gets to know Beth and Jennifer without ever having met them. They talk about all kinds of “inappropriate” subjects, so their email conversations wind up in the web filter, where he has to review them. Beth is the paper’s movie reviewer, Jennifer a copy editor. Their exchanges give Attachments the frothy, forbidden feel of a modern epistolary novel. Isn’t reading someone else’s mail fun?
Jennifer’s happy with her husband but ambivalent about getting pregnant (although he wants them to). Beth has been living with wannabe rockstar Chris and dealing with his perpetual immaturity. They talk about periods and why Beth no longer goes to Chris’ shows and movies and Beth’s sister Kiley’s wedding planning and (my favorite) whether Superman would really work in a newsroom.
Then Lincoln realizes he really likes Beth, only he doesn’t know what she looks like or how to meet her. And worst of all, he has no way to explain how he got to know her without creeping her out. How this all plays out is entertaining, a real page-turner. I loved the way the technology underpins this modern romance, and how Rowell deals with the difficulty of making new friends as an adult. Her portrayals of family relationships are varied and realistic as well. Plus, I was reminded of the Y2K panic and how it felt to work that evening, just in case.