‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion
It’s also a great many other adjectives, but, overwhelmingly, it’s adorkable. Telling the story of a very particular scientist named Dr. Don Tillman, The Rosie Projects relates what happens when he abruptly decides it is time he found a wife (or “female life partner”) and creates a scientific questionnaire to help him find his ideal mate. Inevitably, this fail-proof plan fails in pretty short order when he meets the titular Rosie, who, of course, aligns with none of his criteria, but who, of course, he can’t seem to stop thinking about.
It’s a cute story and one very much in the same mold as James Collins’ Beginner’s Greek: romantic comedy novels approaching the subject of modern love with an immovable faith in romance. The Rosie Project tilts more on the side of comedy than Beginner’s Greek (which tilted more on the side of romance), but, if you’ll forgive the science pun, they share the same DNA.
It’s a very endearing and funny story, but by far the cleverest part of The Rosie Project is Simsion’s choice of the first person for narration. Telling the story is one thing. (And Simsion does it quite well!) But telling it in the first person from Don’s perspective, so readers can experience the story as Don does and really feel how challenged he is in almost every social situation, is exceptional.
Don reminds one a lot of Temperance “Bones” Brennan and Sheldon Cooper, two other socially-inept scientists from the pop culture realm who likely have undiagnosed cases of Asperger’s (as does Don). But, while both Bones’ and Sheldon’s lack of social niceties are often a source of some amusement or tension on their shows, you always get the sense of being a viewer, outside of them. You never experience where they’re coming from. At best, you’re liking them well enough to make excuses.
In The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion lifts the curtain and provides a stunning look inside. For Don, every social interaction requires lightening-fast internal translations of what is happening so he knows how to react. And, even with these exhausting and constant mental calculations, he most often gets his half of the social equation wrong, a fact which he has long-since accepted as unfortunate, but inevitable. For a comic novel, Don’s situation is surprisingly affecting. The use of first person narration makes the situation more real and more understandable than any other portrayal of Asperger’s I’ve encountered.
At its heart, though, The Rosie Project is a genuinely fun read. The ending, while inevitable, is almost a let-down after the charming hijinks preceding it, but if you’re looking for a quick, diverting read that will make you forget how early the sun is now setting, reach for Rosie.