An inability (or reduced ability) to empathize is not the same as an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
304 pages, Simon and Schuster, October 2013
When I start hearing that a book is AMAZING and LIFE-CHANGING and OMG YES NOW YOU MUST READ THIS I almost always tune out. I like to stumble upon books. I often feel that books get built up too much, and then they can’t be anything but a disappointment.
Sometimes, however, I am pleasantly surprised. I like pleasant surprises. I think life hinges on them.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He has trouble getting along in social situations, although he’s brilliant, scientifically. He wants a wife, and realizes he can apply his scientific skills toward getting one: he creates a questionnaire covering everything he wants in a partner and proceeds in giving it to women (or taking it for them under tables while they’re on dates.) Enter Rosie: she’s completely incompatible in almost every way, so Don writes her off as a potential partner. Only love’s not really able to be contained in a lab or on a spreadsheet or in a questionnaire, is it?
I fell in love with these people. Don, with his rigid rules and structures and schedules and inability to understand feelings or emotions; Rosie, with her fiery personality and fierce need to know (know what? hell, everything – Rosie’s amazing); Don’s friend Daphne, slowly losing her past; Rosie’s stepfather Phil, unable to communicate with his daughter. I rooted for Don. I cheered for Rosie. I laughed and I cringed and yelled “Good grief, Don, NO” and there were a number of places where I cried some very unflattering tears.
It’s not a stupid book. It raises some interesting questions. How much of love is science, and chemistry, and how much is that magic and that mystery you can’t put a finger on? Can you pigeonhole love like this? Does it just happen? Can you stop it once it does? Can you plan for it? We all think we have answers about this, based on past experience, and the stories of our friends, but it’s new every time, isn’t it? It’s different for all of us. So how will it be when it comes for you? And will you recognize it, or let it get away from you?
But is this high art? Did I learn huge truths and was my mind stretched and did I come away thinking I’d read an award-winning tome answering all the mysteries life had to offer?
Oh, hell, no. This is most definitely one step up from Nicholas Sparks. I’m laboring under no preconceptions.
But it’s happy, and it’s true, and it leaves you with that really good feeling in your chest, that you got to share some time with these people and they left you better for it.
I love things like that. Almost as much as I love pleasant surprises.
At some point, you’re going to want to read something like this. Something that makes you laugh and cry and cheer a little. Grab it. Go meet Don and Rosie. Go learn a little about love and science and the magic of New York City and marriage and friendship and family. Go, go, go.