It took Australian author Graeme Simsion five years to complete his novel THE ROSIE PROJECT, a bestselling romance novel, called warm and humorous by critics. While our book club readily agreed that the book had a warm element and a happy ending, we were not ready to label it as humorous. It will take readers only a few pages to identify that Don Tillman, a college professor of genetics, is more than just eccentric. As Tillman delivers a lecture on Asperger's Syndrome, one will see clear similarities to his extreme intelligence, profound lack of social clues, and his rigid habits to the information he shares about Asperger children.
Tillman's "project" to find the perfect wife (one who never arrives early nor late, among a myriad of other qualifications) gives the reader plenty of exposure to Simsion's wit. When Tillman meets Rosie, a young bartender who is about as far from his perfect mate as possible, Don puts aside his project for THE FATHER PROJECT, a plan to identify the young woman's biological father. Becoming a bar tender, swabbing drink glasses, flying across the world to New York City, crawling out a bathroom window to escape an irate potential "dad" are just a few of the preposterous actions Don willing does to help Rosie. Could he be emotionally attached to her? Could feelings help him break out of his confined life?
Our book group includes several retired teachers and our discussion quickly moved away from the comments of humor, quirkiness, and delight that seem to dominate most reviews. Having worked with or been around real people who are "wired differently" (as one reviewer describe Don), leaving them always on the fringes of social acceptance, we saw so many of Don's revelations about his life in a different light than other readers. While the quirky narrative read like a happy ending, fun to witness romance, a few members of our group just could not get beyond the reality of what life for an Asperger Syndrome person or their family can be. Those who had never heard of the Syndrome appreciated being exposed to the condition through this novel, but we mostly felt it was handled in too light and silly of a manner. That said, I like to think that everyone can fall in love.