Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Don Tillman Project

Australian author Graeme Simsion's debut novel, The Rosie Project, is an absolute gem. Where else can you find a well-written story packed with romance, questionable paternity, Asperger's Syndrome, lobster death, and a $1200 scarf? 
The narrator, Don Tillman, is a professor of genetics and a social pariah. To friends and family (as well as readers), Don exhibits textbook signs of Asperger's Syndrome. There is no question that Don is  incredibly intelligent, but he cannot conduct himself in simple social settings and he lives by an incredibly strict routine of exercise, repetitive meals, and easily predicted outcomes. For Don to function, he creates a strict schedule for all daily events computed down to the minute to maximize his time and create a safety net. Don is also repulsed by physical contact with other humans. All of this aside, Don decides it is time for him to find a wife. Don is aware of his inability to fit in socially, so he creates a 16 page questionnaire for all of his potential mates. He doesn't want to risk wasting time with unqualified women...until he meets Rosie Jarman. Rosie doesn't meet a single qualification on Don's list, but he decides to  put The Wife Project, as Don dubs the search, on hold until he helps Rosie locate her biological father through the magic of DNA. The journey begins with a man, a woman, and several DNA swabs.
Simsion won The Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2012 for The Rosie Project. The award was created by the Victorian Government, a state in southeast Australia, with the aim of raising the profile of contemporary creative writing and Australia's publishing industry. Simsion is a worthy recipient for his blend of humor, matter-of-fact handling of neurologically different people, and his ability to demonstrate the common needs, insecurities, and concerns we all share. 

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