Professor Don Tillman, a late-thirties bachelor with plenty of intellect but zero finesse around women, has begun the Wife Project.
She should be a non-smoker, someone in academia, someone who eats meat. Ideally, his future wife would fit neatly into the molds he’s already carved for his weekly meals, his physical fitness routines and his busy academic schedule. As an acclaimed university geneticist in Melbourne, Australia, Don is used to professional success . . . but can’t seem to translate that into relationships, platonic or otherwise. With the help of two friends, Don develops a 16-page questionnaire designed to find him his “perfect mate.”
And it’s definitely not Rosie.
With her wild hair, offbeat personality, job as a bartender (or “barmaid,” as Don would say) and a bevy of bad habits, Rosie is the anti-Don. She’s loud, funny, erudite . . . and beautiful. But she’s not for Don.
Definitely not for Don.
So. Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. More than a week has passed since I finished this one, and I’m still missing and thinking about the characters. It’s one of the most delightfully quirky but never-trying-too-hard novels I’ve read in a long time.
At first blush, it’s impossible not to compare serious, nearly-robotic Don Tillman to Sheldon Cooper, the star physicist of “The Big Bang Theory,” but the two characters diverge in one significant way: while Sheldon is apathetic toward women (and quite asexual), Don believes in romantic relationships. With every other duck in a row and his life otherwise declared a victory, Don wants to fall in love — but isn’t sure how. He believes his elevated intellect and OCD-like requirements of a partner will make the quest impossible.
Where Sheldon is funny but infuriating for his judgment and utter confidence, Don’s logic is balanced by his sweet, inquisitive nature and kind heart. Though it’s only addressed briefly and in a roundabout way, Don has an Aspberger’s-like syndrome or a similar condition that makes social interactions difficult. He wants what others have and knows he’s not an undesirable partner, but his awkward mannerisms and deadpan expressions don’t often endear him to others.
But that’s okay. A lid for every pot, as they say.
And we know Rosie is the lid. Look, with a name like The Rosie Project, we know Don is going to embark on a quest to mold Rosie into the “type” of woman he believes he could love. Despite knowing she’s wrong for him in every conceivable way, Don is inexplicably drawn to her. And Rosie, for all her bluster, finds Don to be shockingly offbeat, charming and genuine.
Plus, she describes him as a “To Kill A Mockingbird”-era Gregory Peck — especially after she gets a glimpse of the muscles produced by his methodical exercise. Yes and please.
On paper, Don and Rosie shouldn’t work — but they do. They hem and they haw and they fight it and it’s weird and Rosie might think it’s weird but, for all their contradictions, somehow the pair just fits. Don’s sense of humor and observations are hilarious to readers — especially when he’s describing the interactions of other people, unable to pick up on social cues — but we’re certainly not laughing at him; we’re laughing with him. And Rosie. She really gets Don . . . and because we fall in love with him through the course of the novel, too, we really want her to. Rosie is worthy.
It’s hard to describe how much fun I had while reading this story . . . in fact, I was hesitant to finish it. Often I reach the end of a book only to race through the final pages because, you know, there are so.many.books. and I need to move to the next one. But this? No. No, I wanted to linger a little longer in Australia and spend more time with Rosie and Don, watching their general uncertainty melt into love. It was sweet and real and endearing and just . . . great. Really great.
Though The Rosie Project won’t hit American shelves until October, this one is worth the wait. Put it on your wishlist and get ready . . . it’ll be an unstoppable, buzz-worthy machine come fall.
4.5 out of 5!