Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Rosie Project

Genetics professor Don Tillman is a remarkable man. He’s a master martial artist, wonderful cook, an associate professor at a prestigious university, and can literally accomplish anything he programs his mind to do. So, when this paper perfect man sets out to find the perfect wife, success is inevitable—right? The thing about Don is, that well, he’s a bit different. He lives according to a rigid schedule, has a brain like a computer, and doesn’t quite see the world like the rest of us do. In fact, though it’s never outright stated, Don most likely has undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. So when Don, a man who thinks a computer survey, aka The Wife Project, can produce for him the perfect match, things are bound to go a bit awry, especially when you throw in a girl like Rosie. Rosie is everything Don is not looking for—she smokes, is a vegetarian, arrives late, and completely throws out Don’s schedules. She upheaves his entire life, drawing him into a search for her biological father using genetic testing, and showing him things he’s never taken the time to process before. In short, Rosie is nothing that Don wants, but everything he needs. Thus begins The Rosie Project.

I love an unreliable narrator, and Don is just that. Don truly doesn’t realize his own syndrome, he sees the world is such a different way—everything is black or white, fact oriented, very ‘face-value”— that his observations of the world and people around him are so far-off, so oddly na├»ve, that his reliability as a narrator is not there. On the flip-side, as a reader, we see the things that Don is oblivious of—social cues, sexual advances, friendship—and it is those misreads that make Don loveable and really quite fascinating. Don’s relationship with the spontaneous and emotional Rosie is a joy to read about. In some ways it’s like reading two books at once. We have Don’s story, as told by him, and then we have the story that Don doesn’t see, the world beyond Don’s social comprehensions. Author Graeme Simsion does a brilliant job of creating these layers of nuance. He capably draws in the reader by allowing us to see the world in these two ways—the innocence of Don and our own more worldly vision. It is this that first won me over as a reader, and then there’s Rosie.

If Don is like a wonderful computer, picking up information, processing it, and regurgitating it in his own language, then Rosie is a bundle of energy and passion. She is almost Don’s complete opposite; compulsive and emotional, yet she is also quietly brilliant, a perfect match for Don’s own intelligence. The two characters blend in ways that draw out their best qualities, creating an interesting and oddly compelling dynamic. Rosie and Don’s relationship is this quirky, beautiful thing, a unique and wonderful treat for the reader.

I have to admit that I don’t quite know how to properly recommend this book. It’s such a fantastic read, wrapped in a light and airy package that is it easy to dismiss as another romantic comedy. The thing is, The Rosie Project is not just another romance, it’s a character study, a story told both through the words of the narrator, and through the eyes of the observant reader unmasking the concepts not realized by that narrator; Don doesn’t even realize he’s the star of his own love story, or that love can even exist for him. It is also a coming-of-age tale, as both Don and Rosie struggle to find their places in the world, becoming the people they were meant to be, but could never see. The Rosie Project is an absolutely compulsive read. It’s layered, remarkable, and sweet; one of those books that just draws the reader into its distinctive world and thoroughly captivates until the end. This is a book that you read, and then want to read again. It makes you feel good, and it makes you want to know these characters. I can’t praise it enough, and I can’t wait to read it again. Read The Rosie Project and you too will fall in love.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.