by Graeme Simsion
First sentence: “
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Review copy snagged off the ARC shelves at work.
Content: A ton of f-bombs, a character who has multiple one-night stands (because he wants to have sex with women from every country of the world), a lot of alcohol consumption (granted, all the characters are in their 30s). Thematically, I could see this having older-teen appeal, but it sits in the adult fiction section at the store.
Someone at work — my boss, perhaps — described this to me as a “romantic comedy.” Nothing of substance, really, but generally enjoyable. But because of the way the characters are, I kind of came to think of this as Sheldon gets a makeover.
Don Tillman is a genetics professor at an unspecified university in Melbourne, Australia. He’s got a brilliant mind, but his life revolves around… routines designed for efficiency. He wears Gortex shirts because they work for both regular life and exercise. He has a designated meal plan — lobster every Tuesday, for example — that enables him to both 1) minimize shopping and 2) free his mind to think instead of having to focus on cooking.
Granted, his idiosyncrasies — I liked that even though in the first chapter Don gives a speech to an Aspergers conference, it’s never stated outright that he’s been diagnosed on the autism spectrum — have made it difficult for him to have a relationship. As in: he’s never had one. He’s never had a second date. At age 38, he’s decided that it’s not only his inability to figure out social situations, but also his inability to find someone he’s compatible with. So, he initiates the Wife Project: a survey designated to weed out unacceptable potential partners.
Then Don’s best friend Gene (who’s a real jerk, on so many levels) sends Rosie in. Don initially thinks Rosie is a candidate for the Wife Project, but it turns out it’s something more. She’s looking for her biological father, and wants Don’s help. Thus begins the Father Project, to which Don happily agrees. And although Rosie is far from “acceptable” as a prospective partner, Don finds that… well… opposites attract.
So, did it live up to the book talk? In some ways, yes. It was a very sweet book. Don was likable in the same way Sheldon is: you like them, but they drive you nuts. For the record: Don is much less abrasive than Sheldon. But since that’s the extent of my experience with Aspergers, I’m not even going to venture to comment on how Simsion treats it. That said: I get the feeling we’re supposed to be laughing at Sheldon, but I never felt like we were supposed to laugh at Don. It felt more inclusive than that.
I was disappointed that it wasn’t snort-milk-out-your-nose funny. There was only one scene — when Don and Rosie take over making cocktails at an event — that made me actually laugh out loud. But I did smile a lot. And I did like the dynamic between Don and Rosie, which offset the fact that Gene is a complete jerk. (And that’s being nice.) And I did think the ending was endearing.
So, yeah: it’s worth your time.