I know it’s a Cannonball favorite. It’s an Amazon favorite, too, with over 4,000 five star reviews. And it’s about love, and finding love when and where you least expect it, and since I’m a sucker for love stories, you’d think I’d love this love story.
But I just…didn’t.
After eleventy million reviews, I’m sure that you know the story. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics at a university in Australia. While it’s never directly acknowledged, the assumption is that Don falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, most likely affected by Asperger’s Syndrome. He launches the Wife Project in an effort to find a partner, and designs a lengthy questionnaire for all prospective candidates. It comes as no surprise to anyone but Don that women don’t exactly find this romantic. In the midst of his search, his best (and only) friend Gene sends a young woman named Rosie his way. Don thinks that Rosie is a candidate for the Wife Project, although he dismisses her as unsuitable almost immediately (she smokes, she’s a barmaid, her earlobes are the wrong size). But Don can’t quite get Rosie out of his head, and agrees to help her with the Father Project – Rosie’s quest to find her birth father.
I understand that I’m supposed to fall in love with Don and his quirkiness and Rosie and her version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but Don felt very one note and Rosie just irritated me. Honestly, the only character in the entire book that I liked was Gene, an unapologetic, married, middle-aged lothario whose main goal in life is to sleep with a woman from every country in the world. He even has a map on his office wall with pushpins so he can keep track. By all accounts, he’s a letch, but I found him somewhat endearing. And if my favorite character in the whole book is a philandering jackass, then what does that say about the rest of the cast?
Don realizes, at one point towards the end, that he must change his ways in order for Rosie to love him, or at least be willing to give him a try. And while I’m okay with changing certain things for a partner (quitting smoking, eating healthier, not leaving your dirty socks on the floor in front of the hamper, putting the toilet seat down), Don makes it sound like he feels he must change everything about himself and embarks upon a quest to do just that. And so I felt very much like Simsion was making Don do all these changes in order to fit in to what Rosie and the rest of society deemed “normal” or “acceptable”. But I think if you love someone – and it’s clear that Rosie is supposed to love Don – you find them acceptable no matter what they’re like. For if they change, they are no longer the person with whom you fell in love.
Simsion is a talented and clever writer, and the story itself is good. There were even a few twists that I didn’t see coming. But Don and Rosie and their various projects just fell flat with me.