The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

In the tradition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rosie Project invites readers to laugh WITH an autism-spectrum (AS) protagonist as he navigates the “normal” world. Don Tillman, a professor of genetics at an Australian university, begins his search for a wife with a 16-page questionnaire designed to scientifically select the most compatible candidate. Don is the only character who is surprised when very few matches emerge, and I can’t imagine any reader is surprised when a decidedly inappropriate woman steals his heart.

The Rosie Project is cute, funny, and endearing. But it left me feeling ever so slightly squeamish about its portrayal of the way Don changes after he meets Rosie. With only an apparently token effort of will, Don gives up his standardized meal plan, his accustomed style of dress, and large portions of his previously set-in-stone schedule. According to the story, this is because he has realized his routines were a coping mechanism and his relationship with Rosie has freed him to rise above them.

I notice that Rosie, a smoker, doesn’t quit smoking for Don with such easy abandon. Of course she couldn’t, because nicotine addiction is difficult to overcome and often involves a long, painful struggle to get over. How much more difficult must it be to overcome compulsions that arise from within one’s own brain, rather than from an outside stimulus? It can’t happen overnight. I don’t want to give Don a harder time than he needs to have, but Asperger syndrome (or whatever AS disorder Don has) is not something one can just choose to quit. I hope that the sequel, The Rosie Effect, makes this clear.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC SIMSION)

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