Meet Don Tillman. He’s a genetics professor at an Australian university and while he’s not exactly looking for love, he’s looking for a wife. He’s the narrator of Graeme Simsion’s best-selling debut novel, “The Rosie Project.”
Scrupulously honest, Don is above all rational. He’s a scientist, after all, and follows the rules. But he knows himself – up to a point:
I am thirty-nine years old, tall, fit, and intelligent, with a relatively high status and above-average income as an associate professor. Logically, I should be attractive to a wide range of women. In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing.
However, there is something about me that women find unappealing. I have never found it easy to make friends, and it seems that the deficiencies that caused this problem have also affected my attempts at romantic relationships.
Don, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, lives a rigorously circumscribed life. He prepares an unvarying weekly menu to save time and energy. His days– not unlike T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock – are measured out in coffee spoons and precisely calculated increments of time. He embraces his condition:
“Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organization, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment. “
For Don, the realm of emotions is a foreign country. In fact, he believes wholeheartedly that “emotions can cause major problems.”
While this belief is a clear impediment to finding a wife, Don puts his mind to the task, devising a 16-page questionnaire to cull unsuitable partners who drink, smoke or are vegans.
Then, along comes Rosie, a beautiful, bright, spontaneous woman who meets none of his criteria. Don rejects her for The Wife Project, but offers his services as a geneticist to help her identify her real father in The Father Project. It’s a project that he strings along – little realizing why he is doing this.
Predictably, Don falls for Rosie although he has no clue that this is what is actually happening. He abandons his schedules. He breaks rules. He has fun. He realizes that while he doesn’t fully understand love – face it, who does? – he does, indeed, love Rosie.
My schedule and social skills had now been brought into line with conventional practice, to the best of my ability within the time I had allocated. The Don Project was complete. It was time to commence The Rosie Project.
A lighthearted celebration of the human condition, “The Rosie Project” is at once funny and wise, endearing and entertaining. Readers will root for a happy conclusion to Don’s Rosie Project.