Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1) has been heralded since it came out in 2013 and had been on my to-read list nearly as long. Thanks to my book club selecting it as December’s pick, I finally got around to reading it, though I unfortunately missed discussing it as I was under the weather.
Professor Don Tillman, having never had a girlfriend, let alone been on a second date, is shocked to hear from an elderly female neighbor that he’d be perfect husband material. Conceding that there probably is someone out there for him and, despite his difficulty with social interaction, deciding that he actually would want a mate, Don embarks on The Wife Project, a well-organized, questionnaire-based search that will narrow down the pool to the perfect candidate. She must be punctual and logical, a meat-eater and non-smoker, with a reputable profession.
Barmaid, vegetarian, and late-arriver Rosie is none of that. Yet when his womanizing best friend Gene sends her into Don’s office, he takes a chance. He finds her fascinating, fiery, and determined to fulfill her own personal project to find her birth father, one that Don is perfectly equipped to help her with being a renowned genetics researcher. As The Wife Project takes the back-burner to The Father Project, Don’s carefully structured life begins to break down and he realizes compatibility can’t be found on paper and his surveys didn’t account for romantic chemistry.
Well, we can all see where this is going. But the story lies in following the path to the inevitable conclusion, which is full of adorable hijinks, such as Don’s meticulous self-training to become an expert mixologist to his bonding with baseball fans on an impromptu trip to New York City. Simsion perfectly balances the humor of these scenes with the underlying tragedy of Don’s attempts to learn how to love. Don was a very real, very relatable human being despite having Aspberger’s because he is so upfront about his socialization issues and so determined to overcome them.
Rosie is not Don’s ideal mate and, to be honest, she definitely wouldn’t be mine either even if I preferred women. In fact, I don’t even want to be friends with her. Yes, it’s great that she’s spontaneous and brings Don out of his shell but she’s also judgmental, obnoxious, and downright rude about the man who raised her. Whether or not he’s her natural father, he did the best he could raising her as a single dad after her mom passed away and it’s completely ridiculous that she’s still holding onto a grudge that he didn’t take her on the promised trip to Disneyland. For goodness sakes, Rosie, you’re a grown woman and can take yourself to Disneyland if it bothers you that much. Despite berating Don for his lack of human empathy, she’s self-centered herself, unable to relate to the struggles of other people and understand/accept their flaws, something Don actually does much better.
Although you could argue that she changed Don for the better, in reality he did everything himself even though she was the catalyst. Plus, he was great as he was, if not perfectly happy as Gene points out towards the conclusion. I think the reason I didn’t like the book as much as I thought I would was because I wasn’t rooting for her and Don to be together. I’m happy that Don got his realistically happy ending, but I would’ve been happier if I thought she was good enough for him.