Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman describes himself as socially inept, but his behavior--an aversion to touching other people, an inability to interpret facial expressions or appreciate nonliteral forms of expression, a highly routinized life--suggest he may have Asperger's. He has only two friends--psychology professor and philanderer Gene and Gene's long-suffering wife Claudia. He is so distanced from his family that he has to come out to them as straight. Nonetheless, he is a genetics professor at a prestigious university in Melbourne.

At 39, Don fears he may never find a life partner, but he decides to try, launching the Wife Project. The Wife Project involves a long questionnaire that screens out nearly every woman alive. When Gene sends a graduate student to Don to settle a bet, Don mistakenly takes Rosie for an applicant for the Wife Project. While she is wildly unsuitable (according to the questionnaire), Don becomes involved in the Father Project, Rosie's attempt to find out who her biological father is.  Both the Wife and Father Projects are happily resolved in predictable fashion.

Graeme Simsion does a good job of presenting how someone like Don might react in various situations. But I felt uncomfortable throughout the entire book because Don's social problems are played for laughs. While the humor is not cruel--Simsion wants us to like and appreciate Don--I just don't see people on the autism spectrum as subjects of humor (Ethnic humor no longer acceptable? Let's make fun of people with disabilities). Furthermore, the idea that Don could transform himself by deciding to do so and watching a few movies seems highly unrealistic.

Most of the reviews of The Rosie Project that I've seen are positive;  recognizing that I'm in the minority, I still would not recommend this book.

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