First things first: I did not just stumble across The Rosie Project. Rather, it was reviewed by the perpetually delightful Lauren Henderson over at Great Minds Read Alike, and what I stumbled across was her review. Well, her roundup of her top 5 books of 2013. Which is a sort of review. But I digress.
Thanks to the magic of the internet and the specific magic of Great Minds Read Alike, I had heard rumors that this book was a good one, so I picked up a copy when Moon Man foolishly mentioned that he’d like to look for a guitar fake book and perhaps we should stop by the bookstore to see if they had one. They did not have any suitable guitar books, but the nice man behind the Customer Service desk found me a copy of Rosie in the storeroom in the back (apparently it had recently been in the Staff Recommendations section, and so was in transit back to its regular home on the shelves). So I added it to my pile of selections–I’ve told you I cannot be trusted in a bookstore–and brought them home and added them to the To Read shelf in the bedroom.
The careful observer will notice that I said we made this field trip on Saturday. To be precise, we made this field trip on Saturday evening. Today is Tuesday. It has been three days since this shopping excursion, two of which have been workdays.
I finished The Rosie Project yesterday over lunch.
Now, before you think there’s something seriously wrong with me, or that I’m some sort of bizarre speed-reader or something, I should note that Rosie is only about 300 pages long. With moderately large type. And Moon Man practices guitar on Sunday afternoons, so I’ve got a couple of hours in there where whatever song he’s working on plays in a loop in the background and I can just relax and read in the sunshine (this week it was “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, for the curious). And I read before bed.
…And besides, this book was really, really good, y’all. Really good.
It’s the story of Don, an Australian geneticist who is undiagnosed but exhibits a not-insignificant number of symptoms of being on the Autism Spectrum. More specifically, he probably has Aspergers; if this isn’t a topic you’ve spent much time with, then another way to describe him would be “Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory, but in genetics instead of physics”. If neither of those descriptions is meaningful to you, just read the book and we’ll all start describing things as being “like Don, from The Rosie Project“.
Don has decided to search for a suitable mate, a task which he is calling “The Wife Project” and at which he is having less than no success. This itself is entertaining enough, but then we add Rosie to the mix–a damaged, passionate, alternative, feisty barmaid who is equally at home slinging witty repartee as she is slinging drinks. Rosie is clearly unacceptable for the Wife Project, but she has a project of her own: she wants to find out who her biological father is, and Don quickly comes aboard (he is a geneticist, after all) on the Father Project.
…And hijinks ensue. There’s not much more I can tell you without wandering over into spoiler territory, but in the interest of keeping your interest piqued, I’ll note that this book includes a Jacket Incident, an encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and mixed drinks, rehearsing sex positions with the assistance of a skeleton borrowed from the Biology department, and more suppressed chortling (at least from this reader) than I’ve experienced in a while.
In other words, this book is an absolute delight.
Now here’s the thing: some folks are flipping out about this book because they feel it’s reliant on stereotypes. Others are flipping out because if our protagonist has ASD, is it really fair to laugh when he transgresses against social norms? And I hear both arguments, and I’ll admit to having that same sort of twinge myself…
…which is why I’m waiting until the next time I see my dear friend, who is himself an adult who was never formally diagnosed with what is almost definitely Aspergers, so I can hand it to him and see what he thinks of it. If he comes back hating it or being profoundly offended, I reserve the right to issue a public apology here and retract my review.
But really, I have a suspicion that he’s more likely to be amused by it, and possibly slightly relieved to have a protagonist who processes the world the same clinical, rational way that he does.
And in the meantime, I’m going to continue recommending this book to anyone who will listen, because it is just. so. compulsively. enjoyable. Man was that a fun 300 pages. Makes me wish I hadn’t read it, so I’d still have it to look forward to.
Instead, I’m going to make Moon Man read it, and watch his face while he does so I can laugh again when he gets to the funny bits. That’s not creepy, right?
TL;DR: The Rosie Project is the story of an Australian geneticist named Don, who is almost definitely an undiagnosed Aspie, and his great scientific endeavor to find a suitable mate. It is also the story of Rosie, a feisty barmaid who is most decidedly not a good candidate for wife-hood, and what happens when an unstoppable force meets a seemingly immovable object. Also, it is hysterical.
Rating: 9/10 Muddy Hoofprints. Seriously, y’all, this book was a hoot and a half. The bit with the speech about Aspergers? Comedy gold. The Jacket Incident? The moment when the lights go out at the potential father’s house? Or the bit where he climbs out of the–! …It’s one of those books where you read it, and then your friend reads it, and then you sit together in side-splitting hysterics for a while, gasping out things like “Oh, god, the LOBSTER! HAHAHAHAHAHA”. So go pick up a copy–and then start deciding now who needs to read this with you, because trust me, you’ll want someone with whom to share the Rosie experience.