You know how sometimes you find a perfect book that you “swallow” in a matter of hours and then regret it because you’d literary would like it to never end? The kind of book you’d be happy to be best friends with? The kind of book that makes you believe in good writing again? And in people? And in warm and fuzzy things? The kind of book that makes you feel like home? Well, this is exactly how I feel about The Rosie Project and its follow-up The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.
A friend of mine was bugging me about The Rosie Project forever, saying I should absolutely give it a try, but there always was something in the way, like my pile of books I wanted to go through first, or the long waiting list at the library back in Canada, or relocation to Australia that put everything on hold. So, by the time I actually picked it up, The Rosie Effect came out, so I was lucky to read both of them one after another. Over just one weekend. Because they were so good!
The story starts with the introduction of Professor of Genetics Don Tillman who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes him a brilliant scientist capable of memorizing things at a glance and remembering them for the rest of his life, and also a very socially inept individual who finds it hard to blend into the world full of norms he doesn’t quite understand. Imagine having to communicate with someone who takes the idioms literary and who is almost brutally honest. Handful, huh?
Now, imagine this person suddenly deciding he needs to find a wife.
Naturally, a scientific approach to the matter is a must, or so Don thinks when he creates an elaborate questionnaire meant to help him find a fully compatible partner. The questions cover every aspect of human life. Inspired, Don uploads it on the dating website. The results are not entirely disastrous, per se, as he manages to find a few women with the similar interests and food preferences. The problem, however, is that a bunch of questions can’t define interpersonal chemistry, which Don learns when he meets Rosie, a student of his friend Gene, and the exact opposite of what he’s looking for in a partner.
Despite that, however, Don finds himself falling in love – something he wasn’t even sure he was capable of to begin with. Not at first of course, but the important thing is that he gets there while the readers enjoy the ride.
In The Rosie Effect, Don and Rosie, now married, have moved to New York. He is working at Columbia University and she is determined to finish her PhD, and all is right in the world. Until Rosie find out that she’s pregnant, that is. Don takes the news hard – not because he doesn’t want to have a kid, but because he’s not sure he can make a good dad. Needless to say that navigating the informational overload of looming fatherhood is not something that he copes well with. On top of that, as time goes by, Rosie starts having her own doubts as well. The fact that Don was arrested for filming the kids at the playground – for research purposes!! – and now has to hide it from his wife in order to avoid causing her too much stress is not helping matters.
The tension keeps growing until finally Rosie can’t take it anymore. Don’s practical and scientific approach to her pregnancy results in providing her with a lot of technical information and next to no emotional support, makes Rosie wonder if maybe she and the baby would be better off without him – which is, of course, when Don realizes that it isn’t true.
The books were heart-warming, unique, and every kind of lovely – the ‘couldn’t put it down’ kind. On top of that, they were very insightful and, if not necessarily educational, then at least somewhat eye-opening.
First of all, I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun reading something. Second, it’s never a bad thing to try and see the world through the eyes of someone so different you can’t otherwise comprehend their POV. I guess it’s fair to say that as someone who hasn’t specifically studied Asperger’s Syndrome, Simsion wins all the awards for creating a believable and multi-dimensional protagonist, as well as well-written and thought-through supporting characters.
Both books successfully tackle the issue of control and how sometimes things just can’t go our way no matter how much effort we put into it. Every now and then you just have to go with the flow – something that people like Don not only hard, but almost impossible, although it goes without saying that it is also something almost everyone can relate to.
Another aspect that I found particularly endearing is, of course, acceptance. Acceptance not only of something beyond your control but, essentially, of people who are, like Don, “not exactly average”. Both books challenge the concept of “normal”, effectively pointing out that even though Don Tillman is the person that stands out the most, everyone is not average one way or the other, be it a troubled past or the desire to go against social norms just for the hell of it.
The Rosie Project is the sweetest read, full of fun adventures and hilarious misunderstandings that I would recommend without reservation to absolutely everyone who enjoys good books.
The Rosie Effect is a bit darker and more serious, being focused this time not on the pros and cons of love vs. compatibility, but also on how far can you go to make the relationship work when it turns out that the differences between you and your partner that you used to find endearing threaten to destroy you both.
You better check The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect to see how the resolution plays out!
Now, let’s talk about how there absolutely needs to be the third book.