TITLE: The Rosie Effect
AUTHOR: Simsion, Graeme
SUBJECT AREA: Autism Spectrum Disorder-Adulthood-Fiction
PUBLISHER: Simon and Schuster
PUBLICATION DATE: 2014
NUMBER OF PAGES: 344 (with book group discussion guide)
A year ago, I reviewed The Rosie Project, a charming novel by the Australian writer Graeme Simsion, about a professor of genetics who was seeking a wife; he designed the Wife Project, a formula with a set of characteristics that he was seeking in a life partner. His wife Rosie was a mismatch in many ways but they got together somehow.
The socially awkward but eminently likeable Don Tillman is back in this book, this time on the horns of a dilemma-what to do when he finds out Rosie is pregnant. The gravity of the situation hits him hard; he is not prepared for something of this magnitude. When he sees his wife with a glass of wine, he panics as he tries to figure out what to do next. In addition, he is left to deal with his colleague Gene, a philanderer of the worst kind; the reader was introduced to him in The Rosie Project. This time, Gene’s misbehavior is even more apparent and Don must deal with this element of his life in the best way he can. Add to that the decision to move him and his wife out forcing them to live in part of a friend’s house in a beer cellar using the bathroom as an office! This makes for many an awkward entanglement with Rosie and Don’s friends and colleagues adding comic elements of confusion to the story.
Don’s social awkwardness is both funny and charming in its own way as he learns to navigate the complexities of preparing for fatherhood. He finds some truly resourceful ways to learn and prepare including being involved in the Lesbian Mother’s Project where he studies Oxytocin levels in infants of gay mothers, observes the birth of a calf, who he names Dave, and reads extensively in obstetrics literature. He is practically hitting Rosie on the head with facts and more facts not being entirely aware of the emotional impact and anxiety that goes along with pregnancy.
I laughed out loud while reading about the social awkwardness, but liking Don nonetheless as he struggled through the sheer mess his life was turning out to be. In some ways, I liked this even better than the Rosie Project; there was more complexity making it more interesting and it involved a real life scenario, becoming a potential parent-you can’t get more realistic than that! It felt like a continuation of the first book and one got to know the characters more as they went through life situations and had to figure out how to navigate them. This includes the real possibility of the marriage coming to an end and Don has to figure out how to deal with that as well. This is a more realistic and more positive portrayal of adults with ASD with a dash of humor on every page. What’s not to like!