Falling in Love with a Character

The Rosie Project coverI ordered this book through the library some time ago. I was pretty far back on the waiting list and by the time my name came up I had forgotten why I wanted to read it. I’m pretty sure I decided to read it based on a review, but I have been disappointed in the past when a book has had a good write-up. Consequently, I was a bit skeptical when I started it.

Don Tillman is not your typical rom-com main character. He has issues. In particular he is obviously someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, though he doesn’t realize it, and is cringe-worthy in social situations. I read the first few pages with an Oh, my God! expression on my face. What a horror, I thought. How could someone with his issues find someone to love him?

He began to win me over on page 10. He was in the middle of giving a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome (I think his friend set him up with the lecture in hopes he would recognize himself) and became horrified when someone explained to the kids in the audience that Asperger’s was something you were born with. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Don exclaims, “Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant.”  He goes on to explain that it’s potentially a major advantage. He gives an example in which emotional behavior would lead to a disastrous outcome—Imagine you are hiding in the basement with your friends. The enemy is searching for you and you have to keep totally silent, but your baby is crying. You have a gun. The parents in the audience are horrified. The kids immediately start offering suggestions—Shoot the baby; use the baby as bait; cover its mouth; how long can it live without air; ambush them; shoot the enemy. Don sums it up by saying all the rational solutions came from the aspies. Everyone else was incapacitated by emotion. The kids ending by jumping up and down and chanting Aspies rule!

But Don totally won me over a few pages later when he talked about his second friend, Daphne, who lived above him. Daphne’s husband was in a nursing home with dementia and she was confined to a wheelchair. She was curious about his work and they initiated the Teach Daphne Genetics Project. Don made her dinner on a regular basis because there are massive economies of scale in cooking one meal for two people rather than two separate meals. Each Sunday he would push her wheelchair to the nursing home so she could visit her husband. Daphne was named after the flower and her husband always gave them to her on her birthday. So for her 78th birthday, Don made her a cake and gave her a bouquet of daphne flowers. Don became concerned when she started crying, but she explained that she was crying from happiness.

They continued the birthday ritual several more years until Daphne developed Alzheimer’s. She went down quickly after that. But whenever she’d ask Don if it would soon be her birthday, he would say yes and give her another birthday party with flowers. Eventually Daphne joined her husband in the nursing home and Don continued to visit and give her birthday parties until she no longer recognized him or the flowers. Then he stopped. But by that point Don had figured that Daphne was 319 based on the number of birthdays they had celebrated. Don had my heart from that point on. He so deserves someone to love him because he has shown the love he is capable of giving.

I’m looking forward to going on Don’s journey to find his love partner. He so deserves to find happiness.

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