I rarely read fiction books because most of the times I end up turning the page back and forth, trying to find out which one is whom. I'm not good at remembering names, that's why. I prefer to read non-fiction books, and watch movies and tv series instead.
But a few days ago, an article on my Feedly showed 6 books that Bill Gates recommended to read this summer. Five of them are business/science-related books, except for this one, a novel. He also mentioned that he doesn't usually like novels because he found it hard to remember the character's names. What are the odds! I then got curious and decided to read the book. I've never seen it in any bookstores, so I decided to download one (yes, guilty as charged, sorry). Will definitely buy a copy as soon as it's available, though.
The book is about Don Tillman, a genetic professor with Asperger's syndrome, even though it's never really told in the novel and it seems like he didn't even know that he has Asperger's. One of the reason behind my enjoyment in reading the book is because the readers are welcomed to see things from his perspective, and I get it. I know Simsion overgeneralized a person with ASD (from this book, Don is very similar with Sheldon Cooper), but I can imagine one or two of my students (with mild autism or Asperger's) doing or saying things that Don does. He is socially inept, blunt, has difficulty in understanding social cues and to see things from other people's perspective, has brilliant memory, doesn't fancy physical touch, and always complies to the rules. Too cliché, but I suppose it's still tolerable, considering that this is a fiction work that needs to be enjoyable by the readers.
As a person with Asperger's who is looking for a wife, Don obviously has a list. A long list, to be exact. He wants his wife to be intelligent, not smoking nor drink (but he then change this criterion because apparently it's hard to find someone who doesn't drink in Australia), punctual, not a vegetarian, and a lot more. He even made a questionnaire to make his "wife project" more efficient. Sounds foolish? Not for me. I feel like I'm Don, or the mild, normal version of Don. I set the bar too high, or too picky, as some friend told me. I even decided to create a questionnaire myself (an open-ended and two-way one, unlike Don's, to make sure that we want the same thing). That's why the book gets even more interesting.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of women didn't meet his standard. He met a perfect candidate named Bianca, but the feeling was not reciprocal, as she wanted someone who can dance. He also met Rosie, an attractive young barmaid (who was later explained to be a PhD student in psychology as well) who lies far below the benchmark. Don crossed her name off his "Wife Project" list after their first date, but they remained friends and did a "father project" together. Using Don's expertise, they both tried to find out who Rosie's biological father is by testing abundance of people's DNAs.
We all know how it turned out in the end: They fell in love. Don and Rosie think that he is incapable of love, but I do think that he is. Not in a neurotypical-person kind of way, perhaps, but his willingness to change and to spend the rest of his life with her against all odds, that's love.
“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" - Don to Rosie
A love story about an intelligent professor and an outgoing psychology PhD student - what's not to like? This book is also light enough to be read anywhere, anytime. It's also witty and heart-warming. I smiled a lot when I read it.
At the end, Don chose to be with Rosie even though she is far from what he expected at first.
“I haven’t changed my mind. That’s the point! I want to spend my life with you even though it’s totally irrational. And you have short earlobes. Socially and genetically there’s no reason for me to be attracted to you. The only logical conclusion is that I must be in love with you.”
And here is the most interesting part: They both didn't want their partners to change. They didn't yearn for those, but they accepted each other as he/she was. Nevertheless, Don realized that Rosie and The Rosie Project had changed him in several ways.
“If you really love someone, you have to be prepared to accept them as they are. Maybe you hope that one day they get a wake-up call and make the changes for their own reasons.” - Claudia (a friend) to Don
It's only a fiction work who (almost) always ends happily. It sure gets me all dreamy, but I guess it's just a normal neurotypical person's reaction to a cute, sweet love story.
At the end, we never know who will we end up with. It could be a person that we have been praying for years, or someone who we would never imagine to spend our lives with. Just believe that whomever that is, he/she is someone who Allah thinks will suit us best. Because I don't think that Don will work with Bianca. In order to live, Don needs Rosie.