Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Rosie Project

  by Graeme Simsion
Simon & Schuster 2013
295 pages     Fiction

Think Sheldon Cooper and the Big Bang Theory. This first novel by Aussie Graeme Simsion is a total winner. I loved every minute of it.

Don Tillman is a geneticist and a university professor, and he is definitely on the Autism spectrum. His best, and only, friends are Claudia and Gene—Gene being another professor and a terrible philanderer. Claudia is a psychologist and understands Don and his foibles. Don is an extremely appealing character with a developmental disorder but the same needs as everyone else. The only problem is that he doesn't know what he needs. His life is totally ordered, from the meals that he eats to the number of steps he takes every day. He has trouble being touched, and is not sure when he has made a joke. He learns everything he thinks he needs to know from books or websites—including learning how to dance and have sex.

When Don decides he needs a wife, he treats the issue like the researcher he is—he develops a questionnaire, a highly personalized psychometric questionnaire. He distributes his questionnaire to a variety of sources, but he is having trouble finding anyone who meets his specific needs. Then his friend Gene sends Rosie to meet him. Rosie is the exact opposite of what Don thinks he is seeking. She is messy, late, scattered, but Don begins to feel things he can't understand. She interrupts his ordered life.

 On the other hand, Rosie needs Don's expertise. She has never known who her father is, but as a geneticist, Don can help her. Together, they devise a plan to get DNA from a variety of men, all of whom were in her dead mother's medical school graduating class, one of whom Rosie thinks must be her father. This subplot stretches throughout the entire book. Their adventures gathering DNA evidence are very funny. Of course, like all romantic comedies, the book ends well, and Don and Rosie live happily ever after.

The reviewer in the New York Times said, “'The Rosie Project' is the kind of Panglossian comedy in which everything is foreordained to work out for the best. That’s not a genre that can be dismissed entirely — at least not without sacrificing P. G. Wodehouse, which no one should be prepared to do — but it’s one that doesn’t comfortably accommodate things like autism spectrum disorders."

The Rosie Project is a quick, delightful read. Reader's compare it with Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but I believe that Mark Haddon's book takes a deeper look into life on the autism spectrum. There is a follow up book to The Rosie Project called The Rosie Effect in which the relationship between Don and Rosie moves to the next level.   

When I finished reading it, I gave it to my step-daughter who read it in one sitting on a plane ride. It's that kind of book. This posting about The Rosie Project is brief because I gave the book away before I wrote the review. It was our October book for book club, and everyone really enjoyed reading it.

No comments: