The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon and Schuster, 2013)
If you are looking for a quirky, laugh out loud, fun book, check out Graeme Simsion's first novel The Rosie Project. Dan Tillman, an Australian genetics professor, is a little odd. In fact, I couldn't help picturing Freddie Highmore in the new hit televison series, The Good Doctor, where Highmore plays a medical resident who has a diagnosis of Asperberger's Syndrome, while reading the book. Dan Tillman, who is the narrator of The Rosie Project is definitely on the spectrum. The formal, odd vocabulary and how he converses and relates to the world make it apparent as to why Dan has always been considered an oddity.
Dan is handsome, but socially awkward, and at the age of 39, if he doesn't take some desperate measures, he may never find a mate who is appropriate for his regimented life style. He decides to embark on a special project, which he dubs “The Wife Project.” He constructs a questionnaire designed to elicit information that would easily disqualify women with whom he would be incompatible, and therefore not worth his valuable time.
Dan lives on a tight time schedule. He knows exactly how many minutes he will shower and exercise each day, and he eats according to his Standardized Meal System, which eliminates his need for recipe books, having to use shopping lists, avoids waste, provides nutritional, delicious meals, and is foolproof.
Gene, who is Dan's best friend, and Gene's wife, Claudia, are enthusiastic about finding a lady friend for Dan. But Gene is, himself, a little odd. As a psychology professor, Gene “has a project to have sex with women of as many different nationalities as possible.” (p.2) Gene asserts that he is engaged in this behavior because he is extremely interested in “human sexual attraction, which he believes is largely genetically determine.” (p.2) Dan does not really approve of his mentor's “project,” but keeps his opinion to himself.
304 women answer Dan's on-line survey, and one morning a young woman comes into Dan's office, having been sent by Gene, who has looked over the surveys for Dan. The young professor assesses the interloper in his office in this way, “There were no obvious signs of unsuitability. I did not detect any makeup. Her body shape and skin tone were consistent with health and fitness. She wore glasses with heavy frames . . . she was wearing big metal earrings and an interesting pendant around her neck.” (p. 41) There is no doubt that this beautiful, young woman has stirred something in Dan.
The pair set a date for an elegant restaurant called LaGavroche, but unfortunately, Dan does not have the social where with all to handle the strict dress code and tightass environment in which he finds himself. Rosie shows up in attire that Dan is not quite sure of how to react. “She was wearing a black dress without decoration . . . her red hair was spiky like some new species of cactus. I have heard the word stunning used to describe women, but this is the first time that I had actually been stunned by one,” Dan states. (p.45) Although the restaurant doesn't quite work out for them, the evening becomes interesting when Dan decides to cook for Rosie. However, it becomes clear that according to his questionnaire, Rosie must be eliminated as a candidate to be his permanent mate.
There's a huge but coming. BUT . . . Rosie is fun, unconventional, and is herself seeking the answer to a question which has plagued her throughout her life, and Dan, with his keen interest in DNA could help her to find the answers for which she has been seeking. Despite their agreed upon friendship only pact, Rosie and Dan open up worlds for each other that make The Rosie Project an uplifting tale that is a real feel good read.