Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fiction | A Logical Guide to Finding Love

November's book club selection was a lighter tome—The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I binge-read the entire book the Sunday before our meeting, and my ability to do that—the fact that it was such a light and quick read—made me question what kind of discussion we'd be able to pull out of this book!

Our main character is Don Tillman, a genetics professor with a slightly odd personality. His life is ruled by organization and structure; he follows the same routines daily and weekly, and he approaches life from an analytical, straightforward perspective. Unfortunately for his love life, this same perspective has never been very successful with women. When a departing friend leaves him a letter that contends he'd make a wonderful husband, Don decides it's time to find a partner. Why couldn't he find a wife using the same methodical approach as a research project?

Thus Don launches The Wife Project. By designing a thoroughly detailed 16-page questionnaire, Don figures he has created the perfect methodology to weed out the incompatible and find his perfect partner. It's a surprise to him, then, when one potential applicant named Rosie fails his compatibility test miserably...because she's the one that he can't seem to stop thinking about.

When, early in the story, his friend and fellow professor, Gene, has Don cover a lecture for him on the topic of Asperger's syndrome, it suddenly becomes very clear to the reader that this, essentially, is describing Don. [But whether Don picks up on these pointed similarities, we remain uncertain.] Though we, the reader, did not have much time with him prior to this revelation, establishing that Don is a narrator with a different way of thinking immediately changes our experience with his story. He's not your typical narrator; he tells his tale almost entirely devoid of emotion. It's a refreshing and entertaining perspective because it's such an uncommon one. In many instances, Don's logic does seem to make complete sense—and don't emotions tend to over-complicate most situations anyway??

This character that is so unused to emotional interactions, though, is in for a world of change as he builds a relationship with Rosie. Uncertain from the beginning of the nature of their relationship, Don distracts himself from such a looming question by delving into her own project of figuring out the identity of her real father. It's just the kind of study that absorbs Don's attention, using a standard method, substantive data, deductions and conclusions. In the meantime, though, Don's way of thinking begins to shift; he's loosening his hold on his routines, and his life is becoming increasingly unpredictable, almost without him realizing it.

Fortunately for the sake of our group discussion, we have an outgoing, agreeable group, so conversation was never an issue, despite this story being lighter fare. In the pop culture realm of stories of autism, we decided this was one told from a more comedic, character perspective as opposed to a dramatic, situational one. [We determined The Big Bang Theory employs this perspective as well.] Having established that we all enjoyed the story, our group was able to delve deeper into specific scenes that chronicle Don's story, discussing the author's storytelling choices and critique all the other pieces that make the story tick. It turned out to be a lively, engaging conversation, and though the story itself lacks any heavy, heady discussion points, it still has plenty to, enjoyably, consider.

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