This was adorable, and surprisingly insightful. Of course, I’m always susceptible to books that feature socially challenged individuals, especially ones that are male, so there was probably no way I wasn’t going to like this book. I’m glad to say that not only did I like it, I very very much liked it, and I can’t wait to see the movie version (also written by Simsion — actually, I believe the script came first, and then he wrote the novel).
A lot of people have been calling The Rosie Project “Sheldon Cooper Finds a Wife,” or some variation thereof*, but I think that description does this book and its hero somewhat of a disservice (as much as I love and identify with Sheldon Cooper). The only thing Don Tillman, professor of genetics, and Sheldon Cooper, professor of the left corner of the couch, have in common is that they both probably have Asperger’s syndrome (both undiagnosed). But where Sheldon is snarky and arrogant and verrrry proud of his intelligence (to the point where he holds it over others), Don is sweet and kind and extremely earnest. He is also very concerned with what others think about him, also unlike Sheldon Cooper. Don spends most of his life developing coping strategies for different social situations, and his life is scheduled out to the point where it significantly throws his schedule seriously out of whack if he can’t fit in that 72 minute bathroom cleaning session. He eats the same meals on a revolving seven day menu. He is a creature of schedule and habit and meticulous methodology, because that’s how he’s learned to cope in a world of feelings, chaos, and disorganization, full of people that mostly seem to possess qualities Don feels that he lacks.
*I have read at least three reviews of this book that use almost that exact verbiage. So at least we’re all on the same page culturally? Or something?
It’s when a friend (one of only three that he has) tells him he would make a wonderful husband that he seriously contemplates getting married, something he had previously given up on. And like every other aspect of his life, he is determined to come at this whole finding a wife thing with a method and a process. And so The Wife Project is born. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who actually qualifies for the rigourous standards Don has set for his prospective mate. It’s when he meets Rosie (who is very quickly disqualified from The Wife Project) that Don’s life takes a turn. The Wife Project turns into The Rosie Project, as Don uses his genetics background to help Rosie track down her biological father.
From there, I’m pretty sure you can guess how almost everything turns out, but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t worth reading. Actually, as adorable as Don falling in love with Rosie is, the real star attraction of the book is Don’s mental and emotional arc. I don’t want to say too much more about it, except that Don has let his coping strategies take over his life, and mixing someone like Rosie (a smoker, just for starters) into his meticulous planning is a surefire explosion waiting to happen.
In the end, it’s Don himself that made me love this book. When he says things like this, regarding the scale of human behavior and his place on it:
“I formed a provisional conclusion that most of these were simply variations in human brain function that had been inappropriately medicalised because they did not fit social norms – constructed social norms – that reflected the most common human configuration rather than the full range.”
When he contemplates his reasons for creating The Wife Project:
“And it dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me.”
Or, when we see him overwhelmed by his own circumstances:
“You’re unbelievable,’ said Rosie. ‘Look at me when I’m talking.’ I kept looking out the window. I was already over-stimulated. ‘I know what you look like.”
And later, when Rosie has asked if he finds her attractive:
“Gene told me the next day that I got it wrong. But he was not in a taxi, after an evening of total sensory overload, with the most beautiful woman in the world. I believed I did well. I detected the trick question. I wanted Rosie to like me, and I remembered her passionate statement about men treating women as objects. She was testing to see if I saw her as an object or as a person. Obviously the correct answer was the latter. ‘I haven’t really noticed,’ I told the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Basically, I can’t wait to see this movie, and I’d reccommend this book to anyone seeking a fun, satisfying feel good book. I feel like this is the kind of book that you like right away, and the longer it sits in your brain, the more you like it.