Graeme Simsion‘s The Rosie Project has been called “the feel-good hit of 2013.” Heart-warming and funny I inhaled it in a matter of days. And even after I was done, I just couldn’t get the smile off my face.
Genetics professor Don Tillman is a peculiar guy. He schedules his days down to the minute, his meals are planned according to a “Standardised Meal System,” and his interactions with people are socially awkward. Never having had much success in the romance department, Don sets out to find himself a life partner scientifically. He embarks on The Wife Project and prepares a 16-page questionnaire designed to filter out unsuitable candidates — smokers, vegetarians, the mathematically challenged — in order to find his ideal mate. Then he meets Rosie, who is completely unsuitable for The Wife Project but needs Don’s genetics expertise to help her find her biological father. Together they embark on The Father Project. And as they spend more time together, they both find themselves attracted to one another, suitability aside.
The book’s great appeal is Don as its narrator. Despite his social awkwardness, Don is a completely lovable character, brutally honest but a keen observer of human behaviour. There’s a hint early on in the book that Don has Asperger’s syndrome, which seems clear to his psychologist friends Gene and Claudia but not to him, although Don recognizes his inability to read facial expressions, his lack of empathy toward others and his discomfort with physical contact. But The Rosie Project isn’t a book about Asperger’s syndrome. It’s a book about two people who are totally wrong for each other but so totally right. And its extremely funny.
The humour in the book doesn’t come from Don’s awkwardness, but rather from his astute observations about human nature, which he expresses from his objective, scientific perspective. We don’t laugh at Don but rather at ourselves. The feel-good appeal comes as a result of two lovable central characters, Don and Rosie, who you find yourself cheering for to the last page.