Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Rosie Project

Nontraditional romantic comedies, not an easy find.  But you discover one in Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project.  Don Tillman, a genetics professor with Asperger's, goes on a quest to find human companionship, and he does it the best way he knows how: a sixteen-page questionnaire called "The Wife Project."  When he meets Rosie Jarman, however, chaos ensues.  The good kind.

(source: Chris Dorward "the rosie project")

What I love best about this book is that it breaks down the perception that people on the autism spectrum don't care about personal connection.  They want friendship and love as desperately as anyone else, but don't have the automatic social skills to get it.  That's why I find Don an especially compelling protagonist.  Don's perspective offers unique humor and refreshing frankness.  I haven't read anything like it before.  Simsion captures the voice, the logic, and the emotions of how a real first person narration would sound from a person with Asperger's syndrome.  Despite his limitations, Don unwittingly manages to express genuine tenderness - such as when he develops a friendship with an old woman named Daphne.  In one of the book's most moving scenes (slight spoiler), Don learns her husband used to buy her daphne flowers for her birthday, so he buys them in his place.  She cries, and he doesn't understand why.  Talk about a punch to the feels.

Rosie also defies the typical rom-com tropes.  She has spiky red hair, a willingness to call out the sexism in Don's Wife Project, and a tendency for direct confrontation.  My mother once threw water in her sister-in-law's face to make her shut up.  I imagine this character doing something quite similar.  Rosie wants to find out who her biological father is, so Don embarks on the Father Project with her.  The Father Project functions as an effective subplot that propels the characters forward as individuals and as a pair.  It had several twists, one of which literally made me gasp aloud.  Snaps to Simsion for surprising me!

Anyway, as their friendship grows, Rosie disrupts everything in Don's flawless schedule and Don realizes how much he enjoys it.  Along the way, he develops stronger empathy and social skills without losing his core identity.  Theirs is certainly an opposites-attract relationship, but it works for them and the story.  If you're down for an entertaining read, a cute romance, and an authentic reflection of the Asperger's experience, pick up The Rose Project as soon as you get the chance!

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