The next meeting of the Field Library book group will be on Saturday, February 20, less than a week after Valentine’s Day. So it makes perfect sense for us to be reading Graeme Simsion’s book, The Rosie Project for our next book.
The book is a charming and funny romance with quirky and lovable characters who continually surprise the reader. We start with Don Tillman, a professor of genetics who also happens to be, as he himself admits, a person whose brain works somewhat differently from other people’s. He likes schedules (he chooses his week’s menus well in advance, because it’s so much more efficient to know what you’re going to eat and buy only the ingredients for those meals), he’s very aware of how he’s spending every minute of his day, and for the most part he’s reasonably happy with his life. He decides that perhaps the reason he’s never met a woman who could fit into his life is because he hasn’t been looking in the right way, so he designs a very detailed questionnaire to screen out those women who aren’t really his type.
Of course you can see where this is going: this questionnaire of his is NOT going to help him find the woman of his dreams. Quite the contrary: there are a couple of very funny scenes in which Don very innocently tries to use his questionnaire and creates disasters instead.
However, his good friend and fellow professor, Gene, under the guise of helping him narrow down his choices, sends a bartender named Rosie to Don as a date. Rosie immediately proves herself unqualified as a potential match, but she’s intriguing (both to Don and to us readers), and he finds himself helping her find who her biological father could be. This entangles him with Rosie and slowly but surely leads Don to question a lot of things he’s taken for granted in the past.
The book is told by Don, and there’s always a problem with a first person narrator who doesn’t understand everything he sees. In this case, Don’s limitation is his inability to understand emotions the way neurotypical people do, but he’s very observant, so we the readers can draw conclusions that Don can’t.
There’s a temptation to think of Don as an Australian version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, but that would be a mistake. Don has more of a heart than Sheldon, is more willing to change, and is much less selfish than Sheldon. You’re rooting for him even as you’re wincing at some of his actions (none of which are motivated by malice, of course), and while there are many funny scenes in the book, you’re laughing WITH Don, rather than AT him.
Come to the library and pick up a copy of the book, and join us for what will surely be a fun discussion of life, love and the limitations of science.