The Rosie Project is about Don Tillman, a genetics professor in Melbourne with Asperger’s Syndrome. When the book opens, he has decided that, at age 39, he is ready to find a wife, and concocts The Wife Project, a methodical evaluation of prospective partners via a three-page questionnaire to determine compatibility. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t find any promising candidates this way. He does, however, meet Rosie, a woman he thinks has sought him out because she is interested in being considered for the project. Instead, she turns out to be in search of her biological father, who had a one-night stand with her mother just before her mother got married. Rosie enlists Don’s help, and The Father Project quickly displaces The Wife Project. The book follows Rosie and Don’s increasingly far-flung efforts to identify Rosie’s father, as well as the relationship that develops between the two.
Is The Rosie Project formulaic? Yes. Will it inevitably be made into a movie? Yes. Is Don’s Asperger’s oversimplified and stereotypical? Undoubtedly. Is the book great fun anyway? Yes. Is it predictable? Surprisingly no.
Thanks to Don, The Rosie Project is pretty irresistible. He is incredibly entertaining. He knows he’s different from other people, and he’s lived his life being laughed at, but he’s endearing and smart and funny. The book is beautifully paced (hello, screenplay adaptation!) and its ups and downs and twists and turns kept me interested. I laughed out loud many times at the clever lines, and in the process learned a fair amount about Asperger’s. I know that Don probably represents an amalgamation of many different types of Asperger’s, and I am sure that if I had it or knew someone with it, I’d have been frustrated by his depiction. But for the lay reader, it was illuminating.
The end is a bit controversial, because it basically concludes that for Don to be happy, he has to subvert his normal inclinations enough to make him compatible with someone not on the spectrum. He has to be less Don-like in order to be accepted by a life partner. That may not be the best message to send about people with Asperger’s.
That said, I really enjoyed this book (as did my nine year-olds. who listened to it in the car with me a fair amount). The audio was fantastic – perfect, matter-of-fact narration by Dan O’Grady. Usually when I listen to an audiobook, I follow along a bit in the print. Not this time – I didn’t want to hear even a thought of Don’s that wasn’t conveyed by O’Grady. The audio moved along quickly and I always found myself surprised to realized that I was at the end of a CD.
I highly recommend The Rosie Project. It’s quick and fun and definitely has its faults, but it is also highly pleasurable, as Don might say. Correct?