Don Tillman is a post-doctoral researcher at the very prestigious Melbourne University. It is obvious from the beginning that Don is ‘wired different’. His idiosyncrasies such as calculating people’s height and BMI when he first meets them, calculating the exact number of minutes it will take him to get from one place to another, being ‘very comfortable with repetition’, have served to set him apart from other people.
Don has, by his own admission, never found it easy to make friends so it is unsurprising that he can name only two. Gene, a geneticist who Don relies on to ‘find solutions to social problems’ and who has a ‘project to have sex with women of as many different nationalities as possible’ and Gene’s wife Claudia, a clinical psychologist who is Don’s counselor turned friend. In spite of being ‘39 years old, fit, tall, and intelligent with an above average income for an associate professor’ and thus the belief that he would be attractive to a lot of women, the reality remains that his inability to make friends seems to ‘have also affected attempts at romantic relationships’ bringing rise to what Don has labeled ‘The Wife Problem’.
However things are about to change especially after ‘The Apricot Ice-cream Disaster’ while on a date with Elizabeth, the computer scientist, proves to be the final straw forcing Don to abandon the ‘traditional dating paradigm’ because the ‘probability of success did not justify the effort and negative experiences’ of being out with women who clearly did not get him. And with that the ‘Wife Project’ questionnaire is born. A questionnaire designed to filter out female candidates in order to locate Don’s ‘perfect woman’.
It is while Don is engrossed in securing candidates for his questionnaire that Rosie steps into his life. Establishing from the start that Rosie is the complete and absolute opposite of everything that he is looking for in the perfect woman and regardless of the great time he has with her on the first day that they meet, he still resolves never to see her again, because that would be ‘in total contradiction to the rationale for the Wife Project’.
However, Rosie is on a quest to uncover her biological father and asks for Don’s help. He agrees and so the ‘Father Project’ is launched. The duo’s decision to embark on this project predictably lands them into comical, at times dangerous situations that only serve to bring this very unlikely couple closer together.
This is a beautiful engaging love story and with Don an undiagnosed Asperger’s, the novel makes for quite an interesting read. In spite of the fact that Don comes across as witty, caring, and observant, yet the question that imposes itself along the course of the entire novel is can someone like him ever be able to pull off a romantic relationship.
Don has a lot going for him: he is organized, meticulous, focused to a fault, with a wide ability for innovative thinking and rationality and he is very witty and funny to boot but he is also ‘sometimes accused of being inflexible’ and ‘criticized for a perceived lack of emotion’ as well as not being ‘good at interpreting expressions’. With subtlety not his strongest point combined with inexperience in matters of the heart having had ‘little contact with people outside academia’, it is therefore, both heart – warming and breaking - to see how an individual such as Don works ‘in human-sponge mode’ to absorb all that he needs to learn about the baffling rules of society to win over Rosie; the most beautiful woman he has ever met.
Check out the sequel ‘The Rosie Effect’ which was released in September 2014