The Rosie Project: Redux
Corey has already reviewed this book here, but I couldn’t help but add my two cents. For those of you who missed that review, the basic plot line is that genetic researcher Don Tillman decides he needs a wife (or “female life partner”), and goes about finding a woman in the most logical way possible — a questionnaire designed to find a woman free of what he considers to be critical flaws.
Of course, that doesn’t work out as he expects, and he finds himself spending a lot of time with a woman named Rosie, who upends his life. This works out exactly the way you’d expect. The story is smart, funny, charming and ultimately eminently enjoyable. It’s a lemon sorbet of a book — a great palate cleanser for me, who just came off of the longest series ever. No one dies. Well, actually, two people do, but “off-screen.” No one is murdered. There are no arranged marriages. Mostly. It was very soothing.
But as lovely as the story was, I found myself ruminating on the challenges of depicting a character with Asperger’s in a sympathetic light, without making the reader pity the character. Don is undiagnosed, but the reader is supposed to deduce that Don is on that spectrum based on his similarity to a group of children who have been diagnosed. He builds his life around a rigid structure, designed to maximize logic, minimize emotion, increase cognitive ability and decrease the possibility of his ever being overwhelmed by emotion.
Overall, I think Simsion does a great job of this. I never really felt as though, even in the book’s funniest moments, I was laughing at Don. Or maybe I was, but I was laughing with love, if that makes sense. Simsion cleverly uses enough little “conventional” cues to make us feel connected with Don — when he shows frustration over having a schedule up-ended, for example, or when he’s frustrated by his boss. We’ve all felt these things. And it helps that Don is incredibly intelligent, reducing the urge to pity him.
A few niggling points: like Corey, I felt the ending was unsatisfying for a number of reasons. I expected Gene to be up to something more nefarious, and I couldn’t shake this niggling feeling that Don shouldn’t have had to change so much. There is nothing wrong with scheduling! With the Standardized Meal Plan!
It helps that he wanted to change, though, and that he already had unintentionally changed for the better through his interactions with Rosie. It seemed that most of the things he changed were things that had been exaggerated because he’d “given up” on ever really connecting with another person. He wanted to change, he didn’t like who he had become, and he could change. I guess it’s nice that this reflects the possibilities inherent in each person, despite their limitations…
….but I can’t help but feel that Rosie could, in fact, have put up with eating lobster every Tuesday.