Once again I owe Tasha/heidenkind from Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books who tweeted me about this one – thank you!
Professor of genetics, Don Tillman, is perhaps one of the most organized people around. He has mild Asperger’s but he is doing just fine (or at least he thinks so). He is fit, his University job pays well, he is appreciated by his colleagues and he even has two friends, Gene, a pathological liar and womanizer, and his wife Claudia, a deluded psychologist.
Still Don’s life is turned upside down when he approaches 40 and embarks upon the Wife Project in order to find a suitable mate. Yes, he wants to marry despite his quirky habits and demanding personality. After all it is scientifically proven that married men live longer and are happier and who wouldn’t want that? However when a psychology PhD student named Rosie walks into his office, it seems she’s all wrong— her hair is dyed, her clothes are sloppy, she smokes, she knows nothing about mathematics and she is habitually late.
But then again, something is right about her . . . Don just can’t recognize it at first. As the Wife Project takes a back burner to Rosie’s project of identifying her biological father, Don finds himself breaking all kinds of rules for no good reasons at all. Is that love? Is it madness? Or maybe a bout of middle-age crisis?
A man with Asperger’s is actively looking for a wife. A feisty woman with spiky red hair is surreptitiously looking for a father. They meet quite accidentally, they talk, they are enchanted despite themselves. As you can imagine such a pair of protagonists has a great humorous potential and indeed the sense of humour was the biggest asset of this novel. There were several excellent scenes straight from a slapstick: Don visiting a gay club without being aware of it, just knowing that Rosie works there as a barmaid; Don learning how to dance with a help of a book and a borrowed skeleton. Don presenting his Standardized Meal System to curious Rosie during their first kind-of date. All those (and much more) were really able to make me smile.
Why only smile, though, not laugh out loud? I admit that, after a while, it did felt a bit artificial. To be completely honest Don behaved as if he was a mediocre actor playing a man with Asperger’s, not the real thing. Also Rosie was surprisingly slow on the uptake for a psychology PhD student. Sometimes I had the feeling that this novel did for autistic people what movies like Pretty Woman did for prostitutes. It used a serious psychological condition for entertainment, it played on it for laughter never exploring it – why to spoil a good joke? Of course not knowing anyone with Asperger’s, I am perhaps not the best judge whether or not Don sounded convincingly like someone with that particular illness but what little I know of it suggests that his personality would be unlikely to change as dramatically as Don’s did throughout the book. It’s almost like his meeting Rosie would be able to magically cure him. Well, delusional doesn’t even start to cover it.
Apart from that the novel ended in a rather cheesy and completely predictable way but, after all, as it is a romance romp, I shouldn’t complain too much. Let me merely ensure you that you won’t be left unsatisfied: HEA is waiting for both Don and Rosie at the very end. Whether or not it is completely believable, that’s a quite different question.
It is perhaps not the funniest or the cleverest novel I’ve ever read but if you want to read something light, funny and very romantic, The Rosie Project might be right up your alley. I enjoyed some parts of this one enormously and usually I despise romance so I guess it wasn’t completely bad.