Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster; 304 pages; $24).
Professor Don Tillman was once told by his friend, Daphne, that he would make someone a wonderful husband. Daphne’s declaration flabbergasted Don, as it was “so contrary” to his “experiences of being rejected by women.” Determined to find the right woman, the geneticist uses the same methodical approach to selecting a mate as he employs in science. The Wife Project thus commences. When Rosie Jarman enters Don’s life, his formerly careful, orderly, and unyielding world spins on its axis in Graeme Simsion’s unpredictable and unusual debut The Rosie Project.
Don solely narrates this clever and enjoyable romance, bicycling his way into our hearts just as he rides into Rosie’s. Don suffers from debilitating social incompetence, keeping societal interactions to a minimum and following a rigid schedule. To put it simply, Don is “wired differently” and has difficulty empathizing with others. Simsion infuses his narrative with Don’s eccentricities (such as eating lobster only on Tuesdays and arriving on time, not early, to everything) with tenderness, humor, and poignancy.
Don, at 39, has never had a second date. He hopes a compatible woman will surface from the questionnaires he creates. Enter Rosie.
Rosie, a psychology student and bartender, hopes to identify her biological father and enlists Don’s aid. Don finds everything about Rosie unsuitable, but he has never been happier than he is when he is by her side. She is like a whirlwind: “In the last eight weeks I had experienced two of the three best times of my adult life…with Rosie. Was there a correlation?”
Before long, Don abandons the Wife Project in favor of the Father Project. Simsion makes it abundantly clear to readers that we are all on board for the most significant task at hand: the Rosie Project.
Simsion shines as he chronicles both Don’s courageous journey and character development . The seemingly unalterable Don undergoes big changes throughout the novel. His progression astounds but is always convincing and realistic. Don’s idiosyncrasies make him stand out and make him unforgettable. I daresay he is not a personality one would forget.
Equally vital to the novel is Rosie, yet she does not help narrate the tale. Although I do not feel the omission hurts or diminishes the story in any way, I cannot help but wonder how different The Rosie Project would have been if Simsion had offered her perspective.
The Rosie Project features two people on a quest, intent on their separate, individual goals. Both, however, are on a collision course with the other. Not since Will and Lou in Jojo Moyes’ 2012 international bestseller Me Before You have I seen such chemistry between main characters. Equal parts hilarious and heartfelt, The Rosie Project is a quirky, wholly modern story about identity, love, and acceptance. When I closed the book, I was saddened to leave Rosie and Don behind, but these well-crafted characters and their incredible journey to love will stay with me always. Book clubs will go crazy for these two, lit’s new “It” couple. Dosie, anyone? In any case, Simsion’s message is clear: “If you really love someone…you have to be prepared to accept them as they are.”