The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

9781476729091_p0_v10_s260x420 The Rosie Project: A Novel
by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman is a genetics professor at an esteemed university in Melbourne, Australia.  He’s rigid and deadpan, lacks social finesse, and his life is ruled by a whiteboard hung in his orderly apartment.  At thirty-nine years old, Don has decided that it makes sense to acquire a matrimonial partner, and perhaps reproduce.  And so he embarks on The Wife Project, a process involving a detailed, multi-page questionnaire presented to potential mates which will screen out all unsuitable applicants: smokers, vegans, jewelry wearers, mathematical illiterates, and the list goes on.  And on.

Enter Rosie: twenty-nine, disorganized, impulsive, sometime smoker, and bartender.  Rosie shows up in Don’s office one day, and believing her to be a Wife Project applicant, he rules her out immediately as completely and totally unsuitable.  However, her quest to find out who her biological father is intrigues Don, and together Don and Rosie embark on The Father Project.  Don’s ordered life is turned upside down by Rosie, and, well . . . it’s not hard to see where this is going.  Eventually, a new project emerges: The Rosie Project, as Don realizes that he’s in love with Rosie and tries to win her over by attempting to break out of the rigid mold he’s encased himself in.

The story includes a lively supporting cast, including Gene and Claudia, husband and wife psychologists who have an open marriage, who are Don’s only two friends.  Gene is on his own quest: to have sex with a woman from as many countries in the world as possible.  It is Gene who sends Rosie to Don’s office that fateful day, as a “wild card” for Don’s search for a suitable mate.

It’s obvious from the get-go that Don has Asperger’s syndrome (and he doesn’t realize it), and I have to confess that I had mixed feelings about it throughout the book.  Because the story is meant to be a comedy, I couldn’t be sure that on some level Asperger’s wasn’t being exploited or poked fun of, and that made me uncomfortable.  Don is an immensely likeable guy despite his social ineptitude and many quirks, and he’s definitely cast as the hero of the story.  Still, I’m not sure if there is some sort of statement buried in the story illustrating our societal desire to fix anyone who doesn’t fit neatly within social constructs, or if it’s more of a statement about all of our foibles as human beings, Asperger’s or not.

I chose this book on recommendations from a couple of friends when I was trying to decide which book to choose for my book club this month.  Although it’s apparently a bestseller, I had not heard of it before the recommendations.  It’s probably not a book I would have otherwise chosen, as my tastes lean more towards drama and adversity.  That said, I enjoyed it very much.  It’s a quick-paced, light and entertaining read, and there were parts that literally had me laughing out loud.  There’s a little bit of intrigue and suspense as Don goes to wild lengths to figure out Rosie’s paternity (the guess I made early on was right on, so it’s probably not difficult for the reader to figure out).  It’s a pretty formulaic romantic comedy (can we please stop saying “rom-com”?  Seriously.), and in fact was originally written as a screenplay.  It has been optioned by Sony for the big screen.


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
by M.L. Stedman

What can grief drive a person to do?  How far can love and loyalty carry us?  Is the line between right and wrong always distinct?  Does an innocent child’s right to happiness trump a parent’s right to reclaim what was lost?

These are just some of the questions raised in this beautiful debut novel.  Set in Australia in the 1920s, Tom Sherbourne lives an isolated life as Lightkeeper of the Janus Rock Lighthouse.  Driven to this remote job in an effort to obliterate the ghosts of WWI that haunt him, he carries out his job with the utmost care and efficiency.  When he falls in love with Isabel Graysmark while on the mainland, he brings his beautiful, young bride to his beloved island where they live an idyllic but isolated life together – going for months at a stretch without other human contact.  Their happiness is eroded, however, with first two miscarriages and then a stillbirth.

One day, only a couple weeks after their son is stillborn, a small boat washes up on the island.  Inside are a dead man and an infant – hardly more than a newborn, and very much alive.  It’s as if God himself has sent this baby to replace the babies lost , and Isabel is convinced that she is being called to claim and care for this child.  Tom, on the other hand, charged as Lightkeeper with keeping detailed, accurate records of all happenings on the island, is wary.  The boat’s appearance and its contents must be reported.  His beloved wife, however, convinces him that the baby is meant to be with them, and he cannot bring himself to take from her, in her grief over their own lost babies, this apparent gift.

Not surprisingly, however, the choice they make has far-reaching implications, powerful enough to tear lives apart.

Ultimately, this is a story about grief, love, loyalty, and the human heart’s capacity for love and forgiveness.  Provocative and compelling, life doesn’t always serve up happy endings.

I was drawn in from the first page, and felt as if my heart were being ripped out during several parts.  Gorgeously written, the people and settings spring to life from the pages.  This is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long time, I think.

I received an advance copy; it will be available in bookstores next month.  I won’t be surprised to see this gain a vast readership, and I look forward to more work by this author.