The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is as delightful as all the recommendations say it is. In addition to its lovely cover (definitely my kind of illustration style), I found the novel to be a great light read; it had character development, dynamic characters, and a captivating narrator voice. Don Tillman’s voice resembles Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014). He is almost like a perfectly programmed human being, and his explanations of social struggles and thought processes are both amusing and witty.
Don Tillman is a genetics professor and begins “The Wife Project” to find a suitable mate. Along the way, he meets Rosie Jarman, a woman who does not fit any of his wife requirements, but becomes his friend nonetheless in her journey to seek her real father (“The Father Project”). Rosie challenges Don’s standardized lifestyle and pulls him into the real world of confusion, excitement, and joy.
Time has been redefined. Previous rules no longer apply. Alcohol is hereby declared mandatory in the Rosie Time Zone.
Some interesting concepts buzzing in my mind are being “weird”, accepting yourself and others, and Occam’s Razor.
“You know what I like about New York?” he said. “There are so many weird people that nobody takes any notice. We all just fit right in.”
Don has Asperger Syndrome and that is the root of both his flaws and strengths. While he is greatly admired for his intelligence and memory, he is also looked down on for his social awkwardness. Because of this, Don has very few friends.
What I find very interesting about Don being so “weird” is how his view as an outsider question the inside world that I live in. Many times, Don talks about social conventions and trying to follow them in order to be “normal”. Everything about the inside world is controlled by societal norms. Since this is the case, then everything is arbitrary. For example, Don’s best friend, Gene, sleeps with different women even though he is married (i.e. in an “open” marriage). Neither Gene nor his wife, Claudia, claims this to be weird or wrong until the end when Don tells Gene straight up that he needs to grow up.
As Don demonstrates in the novel, humans do many weird things, yet nobody thinks they are weird as long as they follow conventional social norms. Isn’t that just weird?
Accepting Yourself… and Others
And it dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me.
“The Wife Project” is a survey filled with ridiculously detailed questions in order for Don to filter out applicants to find the perfect wife. While it is understandable that an intelligent and eligible bachelor like Don would have requirements in a mate, “The Wife Project” takes it to extreme levels. Ironically, Don is aware that he is not perfect as he is constantly pointing out his inadequacies on social practices. However, he does not accept his inadequacies and this is supported by the notion that he remains persistent on finding the perfect wife even when he is naturally attracted to Rosie.
It is the cliche battle of the mind against the heart. Rosie, with all her “deficiencies” (i.e. job as a barmaid, smokes cigarettes, and is vegetarian), accepts and loves the zaniness that is Don. On the other hand, Don has to rationalize reasons for being in love with Rosie even though instinctively, he already believes she is the world’s most beautiful woman. Not only does Don have difficulties accepting himself, it is evident he is also very fearful of accepting others.
“I asked you here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Occam’s Razor (Law of Parsimony)
Tickets! Tickets to Disneyland. All problems solved!
Parsimony was a concept that actually popped up in my business strategy class this week. Basically it is the idea that “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one“. This concept underlies all the conflicts in the novel.
Don and Rosie gathered DNA samples from 41 men around the world for “The Father Project”. In the end, it turns out that Rosie’s father is Phil, whom Rosie believed was her step-father the entire time. Don creates “The Wife Project” to search for his perfect wife. In the end, Don’s “perfect” soul mate ends up being Rosie, who was there with him the whole time.
It almost makes everything seem like a wild goose chase; but it wasn’t an obvious wild goose chase, so in the end I, as a reader, was engrossed in the entire adventure of The Rosie Project.