Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

People have been raving about Graeme Simsion's book, The Rosie Project, almost since it hit the shelves last year. They've used words like heartwarming and sweet and lovely. And it did sound good but with that level of buzz, it made me very leery.  Because I have a rather poor track record with books that make everyone else glow.  But in the end, there was no resisting it and people weren't wrong, so let me add my voice to the glowing reviews because I loved this and it was in fact just as heartwarming, sweet, and lovely as promised.

Don Tillman is a brilliant genetics professor. He doesn't have a lot of friends; in fact, he has only two.  He is not only uncomfortable in social situations, but he doesn't understand the nuances of social interaction at all. His world is completely scheduled and quite rigid and he's very particular.  It's never stated explicitly but it is certainly implied that Don has Asperger's.  So when Don decides that he would really like companionship, leaving it to chance really won't work for him, at all. Enter The Wife Project. Don creates a thorough questionnaire to weed through the women who do not fit his criteria and therefore have no hope of potentially being "the one" for him. And amazingly enough, women actually fill out the questionnaire. But there's not a single match in the bunch so Don passes the results off to one of his two friends, a fellow professor who has an open marriage and a very roving eye, asking Gene to look over the choices again and see if Don has missed anything.

Almost immediately a young woman named Rosie shows up at his office and Don assumes that she is someone who Gene has sent to him for consideration. Rosie has a favor to ask of Don. She wants him to help her find her biological father, having known for years that her mother had a fling one night with a fellow medical student that resulted in her birth. Rosie's relationship with Phil, the man who raised her, has long been unhappy so she's searching for her "real" father. Don agrees to help Rosie with The Father Project, using the university's genetics lab to test illicit DNA samples. Meanwhile Rosie actually has zero knowledge of The Wife Project.

As the two work together, Don knows immediately that Rosie fails The Wife Project on many fronts so she cannot be his future partner.  Rosie has no desire whatsoever to even be considered for The Wife Project,  But in the short term, the two of them enjoy spending time together and have fun with each other. Rosie accepts Don with all of his quirks and ticks and without trying to change him. She does teach him to broaden his world a bit though, showing him the danger of assumptions and pre-conceived ideas, pushing him just enough without touching the core of who he is. Don has a very cerebral way of looking at the very black and white world he inhabits so it is charming to watch him struggle with understanding the very grey area of the heart and its emotions in both his own life and in that of his few friends.

This is a lighthearted, feel-good look at love, normalcy, social expectations, and accepting someone for him or herself. It has an affectionate feel to it as the reader roots for Don, who is not your everyday romantic hero and clearly has much to overcome before he can have a successful relationship. Don thinks that genes determine a person but learns that genetics are not all that people are. Both Don and Rosie are characters with whom the reader will enjoy spending time. They are funny, sometimes unintentionally, and charming and while the story might come to its expected conclusion, getting to that place is a real joy.

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