Rosie Project (Simsion)

The Rosie Project 
Graeme Simsion, 2013
Simon & Schuster
304 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781476729091

Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father.

When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1956-57
Where—Auckland, New Zealand
Education—B.S, Monash University; M.B.A., Deakin University;
   Ph.D., University of Melbourne; Advanced Diploma, Screen-
   writing, RMIT*
Awards—Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript Award
Currently—lives in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

Graeme C. Simsion is a New Zealand born Australian author, screen-writer, playwright and data modeller. He won the 2012 Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript Award for his book, The Rosie Project.

Prior to writing fiction he was an information systems consultant and wrote two books and several papers about data-modelling. He established a consulting business in 1982 and sold it in 1999. At that time Simsion Bowles and Associates had over seventy staff. He co-founded a wine distribution business, Pinot Now with Steven Naughton.

From 2002-2006, as a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, he conducted the largest published study of data modeling practitioners (489 participants, most with substantial industry experience), to address the question, Is data modeling better characterized as description or design? The research included interviews with thought leaders, surveys of practitioners, and practical modeling tasks.

He concluded that, in contrast to the assumption implicit in most data modeling research, data modeling is best characterized as a design discipline (the term design is used in the broad sense of design theory, rather than its more narrow and casual usage in the information systems field). His work was published as his PhD thesis "Data Modeling: Description or Design," University of Melbourne, 2006 and in Data Modeling Theory and Practice (Technics Publications, 2007).

He is married to Professor Anne Buist and has two children. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/03/2013.)

* RMIT is the renamed Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Book Reviews
The Rosie Project is the kind of Panglossian comedy in which everything is foreordained to work out for the best. That’s not a genre that can be dismissed entirely—at least not without sacrificing P. G. Wodehouse, which no one should be prepared to do—but it’s one that doesn’t comfortably accommodate things like autism spectrum disorders.... The ultimate convention of romantic comedy is that love conquers all, but to propose that it can so easily mitigate such a painful condition may be to take convention too far.
Gabriel Roth - New York Times Book Review

Read-out-loud laughter begins by page two in Simsion’s debut novel about a 39-year-old genetics professor with Asperger’s—but utterly unaware of it—looking to... find love.... His plans take a backseat when he meets Rosie, a bartender who wants him to help her determine her birth father’s identity.
Publishers Weekly

Funny, touching, and hard to put down, The Rosie Project is certain to entertain even as readers delve into deep themes. For a book about a logic-based quest for love, it has a lot of heart….[an] immensely enjoyable novel.

Polished debut fiction, from Australian author Simsion, about a brilliant but emotionally challenged geneticist who develops a questionnaire to screen potential mates but finds love instead.... The story lurches from one set piece of deadpan nudge-nudge, wink-wink humor to another: We laugh at, and with, Don as he tries to navigate our hopelessly emotional, nonliteral world....sparkling.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Do Don’s Asperger’s conditions help him or hinder him? Does Don’s having Autism offer any advantages in his life?

2. Don goes through a number of spectacularly bad dates. What have been some of your own dating nightmares?

3. Where do you fall on the spectrum between structure and chaos in life? Are you highly rigid in your routines or very relaxed?

4. Do you agree with Don’s assessment that “humans often fail to see what is close to them and obvious to others”? (p. 88)

5. What do you think of Gene and Claudia’s relationship? Do you know anyone in an open marriage? Can it work?

6. Don says that the happiest day of his life was spent at the Museum of Natural History. Do you have a happiest day of your life? Or is there a special place where you are happiest?

7. As Don’s affection for Rosie grows, he becomes aware of his instincts overriding reason. What is the role of instinct versus reason when it comes to choosing a life partner?

8. Do you have anyone on the Autism spectrum in your life?

9. Don watches a number of movies to try to learn about romance, including When Harry Met Sally, The Bridges of Madison County, An Affair to Remember, and Hitch. What are your top five romantic movies?

10. Have you ever had a moment of breaking out of your routine and opening up in a significant way? Or has someone broken through your routine for you?

11. Is it smart to have a list of criteria for a potential partner or is it limiting?

12. Don gets in trouble with the dean for using the genetics lab for his personal project with Rosie. Is it ever okay to break the rules in order to help someone?

13. Do you feel happy for Don when he “eliminates a number of unconventional mannerisms” (p. 268) in order to win Rosie, or has he lost something?

14. Does Gene get his comeuppance?

15. Were you surprised at the ultimate revelation of Rosie’s biological father? Did you suspect someone else?
(Questions 1-15 issued by publisher.)

Additional Questions by LitLovers

16. After his lecture on Aspergers, Don confronts Julie with what he considers her lack of understanding: earlier, she obliquely refereed to Aspergers as a "fault"—as in "[it's] something you're born with. It's nobody's fault." She also worries that the nickname "Aspies" will get "them thinking it's some sort of club." How do Don and Julie view Aspergers? Do you agree with Don's approach...or Julie's?

17. Follow-up to Question 12: Don comes to see that morality and ethics are nuanced. What brings him to this point? And is morality nuanced? Is there such a thing as a purely moral/ethical stance, as Don has, up to this point, always believed?

18. Don accuses Gene of being just like him. One would hardly consider Gene autistic, so what does Don mean? In what way are the two men similar?

19. SPOILER ALERT: Don comes to the realization that he loves Rosie. Does he? Is he capable of the same kind of love as those of us feel who are low on the autism spectrum? Don realizes he feels happiness with that the same as love? Or is his concept of love—compatibility and pleasure in each other's company—a better basis for marriage than deep feelings? Will Don's love, or his idea of love, be satisfying for Rosie over the long haul? What do you think?

20. SPOILER ALERT: Follow up to Question 17: Don has autism. How would you rate the chances for a happy marriage between Don and Rosie? What problems might they encounter? Is the book's ending overly optimistic, too much like a fairytale? Or is the ending based on optimism tinged with realism?

21. Overall, talk about the changes that Rosie precipitates in Don? In some ways, this novel can be seen as an adult coming-of-age story. How does Don grow over the course of the novel...not just the changes in his appearance or social behavior but in his essentials?

(Questions 16-21 by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks!)


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