The gist: A marriage on the rocks gets a second chance thanks to the help of a magic phone.
The review: Far-fetched but charming 💛
Georgie and Neal fell in love in college, got married, had two kids, and somewhere along the way lost sight of what made their relationship work.
Just when things seem irreparably bad, Georgie finds that her old landline phone at her mother’s house can magically get a hold of Neal in the 1990s, when they were first falling for each other. These calls help her remember her love for her now-husband, and ultimately save their marriage with a little time-traveling weirdness.
As a kid who grew up with landlines and VCRs, I like the idea of finding some elusive magic in analog technology. Because, like, there *was* something different and more special about a long landline phone chat—where you stood or sat or paced twirling the cord in your fingers, solely focused on the conversation because you were literally tethered to it—than the constant access we have to each other now.
I love Rainbow Rowell’s characters and writing. Their charm and endearment make this wild plot point work.
THE RATING: ⭐⭐⭐/5
Neal didn’t take Georgie’s breath away. Maybe the opposite. But that was okay—that was really good, actually, to be near someone who filled your lungs with air.
She knows that killing a person does almost-invisible things to you; it leaves you arm-linked with death, your head tilted just a degree that way, so that for the rest of your life your shadows mix together.
It’s been 10 damn years since the first book of the Divergent trilogy came out in 2011, I can’t believe it.
While Hunger Games will always have my heart as the best YA dystopian series of all time, I still really liked Divergent.
And I especially love that it’s set in Chicago! I’ve lived in Chicago over ten years, and it’s fun to see my city used as the backdrop in such a popular series. NYC and LA get all the love, but Chicago deserves just as much.
These new 10th anniversary paperback covers put the Chicago setting front and center, and I love that we get more of a zoomed-in visual of the city described in the books.
Chicago has beautiful architecture (among many wonderful things the city has to offer), and in the dystopian world of Divergent, we see that the architecture of Chicago is about the only part of the city we know today that’s lasted. It’s both lovely and melancholic to think that these grand structures will outlive us all.
Chicago landmarks shown on the new covers:
THE EL TRAIN: Short for “elevated.” It’s been around since 1892 and goes all over the city and its neighborhoods, even to some suburbs.
O’HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Chicago’s main airport (Midway is the other one) located west of the city. All the road signs on the Allegiant cover are spot-on: O’Hare is one of the largest and most confusing airports in the US.
Not a landmark per se, but ILLINOIS FARMLANDS: Chicago is a big city in a sea of farmland and cornfields. It doesn’t take long to go from skyscrapers to cows. This is where the Amity live and work in Insurgent.
THE FERRIS WHEEL AT NAVY PIER: Navy Pier is a tourist spot with shops, food, and shows, and its iconic Ferris Wheel called the Centennial Wheel, which is nearly 200 ft high. One of the best parts of the first book is when Tris and Four climb it on a dare 🤘
Other Chicago landmarks referenced in the books that aren’t shown on these covers:
THE MERCHANDISE MART: This downtown building is so huge it used to have its own zip code. It serves as the court and judicial hall in Divergent with the Candor faction living there, though they darkly refer to it as the Merciless Mart.
Side note: I worked in this building for a couple years, it’s really cool. It has its own el stop, a food court and a bar, showrooms for luxury home fixtures & furniture on the first floor, lots of other shops, a gym, offices—I also get my hair done here! It has everything.
THE JOHN HANCOCK BUILDING: Technically the “John Hancock Center.” This is my favorite of the super-tall Chicago skyscrapers because of its unique steel beam design, though it’s actually only the fifth-tallest in the city. At one point in the series, Tris and the Dauntless go zip-lining off the ROOF OF THE JOHN HANCOCK JUST LOOK AT IT NO THANKS I’m an Amity.
BTW, these are what the original covers look like:
They have a subtle Chicago skyline (and I like that they show the marshy Lake Michigan on the first one), but the city is much more the focus of the new covers 💙
Danny Torrance has been through enough weird stuff in life that a psychic cat doesn’t faze him, even if it is named after the Angel of Death for good reason.
One of the coolest and most mysterious cameo characters in Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, is Azreel the cat (named for the Judeo-Islamic Angel of Death, Azrael, though King spells it with a double-e). He appears in the 2013 novel and the 2019 movie.
Adult Dan Torrance finds himself working as a hospice orderly in New Hampshire, where he uses his “shining” talent to help dying residents cross over when their time comes. And his trusty sidekick comes in the form of the fuzzy and preternaturally wise Azreel, the nursing home’s resident cat who has a knack for predicting when someone is about to die.
Can we just take a second to appreciate the wonderful combination of Ewan McGregor and a cat? 😍 … Okay. Moving on.
Azzie is described in the novel as a stray that wandered in off the street and got adopted by guests, and he’s said to never have been wrong in his predictions in the six years he’s been around. He wanders the nursing home freely, lounging where he pleases, coming around for his twice-a-day bowl of Friskies, but he’s also regularly found outside of residents’ rooms when it’s their time to go.
When staff see Azzie outside someone’s door, they don’t call a doctor; they call Doctor Sleep, a.k.a. Dan Torrance. Dan follows where Azzie leads, and together they comfort people as they move on to the next plane of existence—Dan with a psychic projection of the person’s fondest memories, Azzie with a steady purr and reassuring weight on their legs.
Dan’s colleagues call Azzie Dan’s assistant and, despite the cat belonging to no one in particular, insist he’s Dan’s cat because of their unique bond.
You may have heard the real-life story of Oscar the cat, a therapy cat who lives in a Rhode Island nursing home and got his 15 minutes of celeb-purr-ty (had to do it) in 2007 because of his track record predicting the deaths of terminally ill patients. King said in an interview Oscar was the inspiration for Azreel.
In fact, he inspired the whole novel. To quote King: “I saw this piece on one of those morning news shows about a pet cat at a hospice, and according to this story the cat knew before anybody else when somebody was going to die. I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a story about that.’ And then I made the connection with Danny Torrance as an adult, working in a hospice. I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m gonna write this book.'”
Oscar’s style is similar to Azzie’s, choosing to nap next to people a few hours before they die. The theory is that Oscar can smell biochemicals released by dying cells. His ability his been debated, but I prefer to think like King that he’s just a psychic little Angel of Death.
Can we just take a second to appreciate how Kubrick-Shining that hallway shot is? Thoughtful touches like this are one of the many reasons I love the Doctor Sleep film. The director Mike Flanagan killed it in the adaptation department. AnYwAy, we’re here to talk about cats, but I highly recommend this movie.
By the end of the book after many years have passed, Azzie is still alive and kicking, albeit with a limp, doing his spooky stuff around the hospice. He’s even in the last few pages, assisting Dan with a special patient. It’s a lovely scene that makes my eyes do this weird watery thing… King is not afraid to write about death, and there’s a lot of comfort to be found in watching his characters cope with it.
And if death includes a warm, purring cat by your side, there are worse ways to go.
When evening gave way to night and the pulse of Rivington House slowed, Azzie became restless, patrolling the corridors like a sentry on the edge of enemy territory. Once the lights dimmed, you might not even see him unless you were looking right at him; his unremarkable mouse-colored fur blended in with the shadows.
He never went into the guest rooms unless one of the guests was dying.
Then he would either slip in (if the door was unlatched) or sit outside with his tail curled around his haunches, waowing in a low, polite voice to be admitted. When he was, he would jump up on the guest’s bed and settle there, purring. If the person so chosen happened to be awake, he or she might stroke the cat. To Dan’s knowledge, no one had ever demanded that Azzie be evicted.