This is one of the books recommended by an unlikely, but influential source——the billionaire-philanthropist-turned-book-reviewer Bill Gates. And I have to thank The Man because I’ve enjoyed this book immensely. It’s a light and heart-warming read and without meaning to, actually perfect for this Valentine’s.
The Rosie Project is a fiction novel written by Australian author, Graeme Simsion, about an aspie (person with Asperger’s Syndrome) geneticist, Don Tillman, who works as an associate professor at a prestigious university in Melbourne, Australia. He is 40 years old, earns more than people his age, and is in need of a suitable life partner. But because of his want of social skills, which almost always tend to embarrass him or the people he interacts with, he has very few friends and even fewer chances of dating someone he might like or if he thought about it, someone who could accept him as he is. To recruit and select the woman who would be perfect for him, he starts The Wife Project and in the middle of it, meets the beautiful Psychology PhD student, Rosie.
Line up the Virgins
What is beautiful about Graeme Simsion’s novel is that the protagonist, Don, is a lovable character despite his social ineptitude and strict adherence to his rules and schedules. He is so smart and efficient that he has mastered a lot of skills such as aikido, cooking lobster and other gourmet foods, and my favorite, preparing and serving cocktails. He is funny without meaning to, but he is prone to depression, the scale of which he measures regularly in perfectly aspie-fashion, by using a questionnaire. His lack of opportunity to enjoy social interactions, especially with women, is a major life problem.
Until he meets Rosie.
Smart, beautiful, and irreverent, Rosie interacts with Don in a straightforward manner, meaning, she cares a lot if Don looks like a bum but she is not completely impatient with or insensitive to his aspie mannerisms. She is forceful, but is instinctively kind and open to Don’s weirdness, meaning, she knows when to allow Don to be his lovable aspie-self. And Don slowly appreciates Rosie’s way of relating to him, and in truth, becomes the cause of his attraction to Rosie.
When Rosie gets her and Don a bartending gig at a party, Don compares the experience to the satisfaction he felt while visiting the Natural History Museum in New York, which I suppose is heaven for people with Asperger’s syndrome. It is my favorite part in the story—— Don enjoying his aspie-self, for the first time it seems, while taking cocktail orders from the party guests and reciting the cocktail recipes from heart to his fellow servers who cannot possibly match his amazing memory.
The phrase line up the virgins is a funny response to Don by one of the guests whom he noticed hasn’t ordered a single alcoholic drink and this was a problem because the guest is one of Don and Rosie’s targets in their Father Project, meaning, he must get a sample of the guest’s DNA from his wine or shot glass. So to urge the guest to drink, Don recited the list of Virgin cocktails that the guest might like and when the guest was persuaded, he told Don: line up the virgins.
Item No. 1
The climax in the story is the first image that you see in this post: Don on his way to see Rosie with a bouquet of roses and an engagement ring for Rosie hidden in his jacket pocket. But before this culminating event, Don had to do a lot of changes in his external look (new haircut, new wardrobe) and speech (less robot-like language) which he thought necessary to make Rosie to fall in love with him. It is his reasoning that while he is incapable of feeling love for Rosie because of his special condition, he concluded after some reflection that he is not entirely lacking in empathy and attraction for her. That he is willing to change some of his aspie behavior for Rosie is what makes Don a compelling character in his own right. I will not be surprised if Hollywood will someday make Don come to life on the big screen.
I highly recommend this book, especially to those who have difficulty relating to non-geniuses or whose rationality or pragmatism may sometimes ruin moments in life when a more flexible and instinctive response is better and perfectly human.