This is the third Rainbow Rowell book I've read. I loved Eleanor and Park, but the ending was such a disappointment. I liked Fangirl quite a bit, but I found it kind of uneven, and again the ending let me down (though not as epically as E&P). Given that track record, I read Attachments with a certain degree of detachment, not wanting to fall in love with the story only to get burned again in the last chapters. As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Attachments is delightful from the first chapter to the last.
That this book is as enjoyable as it is kind of amazing, given the premise. The protagonist, Lincoln, is about as beta as they come, and he could easily have come across as a Creeper rather than a Keeper. He's a 28 year old computer geek who lives with his mother and doesn't get out much, except for his weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. He's still mooning over the only serious relationship he ever had, a youthful infatuation that ended nine years ago. He works the graveyard shift at a local newspaper, monitoring employees' email and internet use for violations of company policy, and preparing for Y2K. (Oh, yeah, this book is set in the fall of 1999, on the cusp of the predicted apocalypse of technology which, of course, turned out to be a lot of sound and fury.)
As part of his job, Lincoln reads the email conversations of two reporters, Beth and Jennifer, whose emails get flagged a lot because of their profanity and their frequency. (Employees are not supposed to use email for personal conversations.) LIncoln is charmed (as is the reader) by the women: the way they tease and support each other, the way they lift each other up in tough times, the way they are sometimes brutally honest with each other. He begins to develop feelings for one of the women, Beth, before he ever sees her. -And almost as soon as he realizes he's in love, he understands how hopeless it is, because reading her email without her knowing it is so very wrong, even if it is his job.
The fact that Lincoln understands and is troubled by the creepy stalkerish aspects of his job is what saves him from coming across as creepy and stalkerish. (Also, the reader is as charmed by Beth's and Jennifer's emails as Lincoln is, and you don't want him to cut off access by revealing himself.)
Interspersed with chapters devoted to Beth's and Jennifer's emails are chapters devoted to Lincoln. Over the course of the novel, he makes a number of small changes, not really realizing the import of each, until he ultimately overcomes the inertia that has bogged down his life since college: he eats dinner in the break room instead of alone at his desk, he reconnects with old friends, he connects with new friends, he joins a gym, he finds an apartment, he gets a haircut. Individually, each of these changes is insignificant, but by the end of the book, Lincoln has made enormous personal growth. The beauty of it, though, is that his self-improvement doesn't come at the cost of anything or anyone else. He doesn't kick his Dungeons and Dragons friends to the curb in the pursuit of a cooler crowd. He leaves his mother's house, but does so in such a way that she still feels needed and loved. Lincoln becomes a better guy, but he remains true to himself and his roots.
He and Beth don't actually connect until 95% of the way through the book. The wait is excruciating, but it's the anticipation of something wonderful, like Christmas morning or a long-planned vacation, and when it comes, it's almost indescribably satisfying. (And yet, Rainbow Rowell does a pretty good job describing it:)
There are moments when you can't believe something wonderful is happening. And there are moments when your entire consciousness is filled with knowing absolutely that something wonderful is happening. Lincoln felt like he'd dunked his head into a sink full of Pop Rocks and turned on the water.
(p. 311 of 327)