The Rosie Effect
“Author Simsion handles the whole with grace and craftsmanship, so that life-lessons are painlessly absorbed through storytelling rather than preaching.”
Asperger’s syndrome is not a common topic in fiction, especially as the dominant trait of a main character. In the Rosie Effect, sequel to the hit novel The Rosie Project, we see life through this lens via the delightful Don Tillman.
Don is a brilliant genetics professor and masterful bartender, but so socially out of tune as to create strange difficulties in his life. Particularly in relationships. “I’m extremely experienced at dealing with embarrassment resulting from insensitivity to others,” he tells his mentor when the tables are turned and he gives back advice.
But Don is honest, engaging, and adaptable, so in the previous book he managed to win himself a wife—the Rosie of title, who’s about as opposite from him as a person can get.
Rosie helps Don navigate through the bewildering jungle of social cues he misses from being “immune to subtlety.” These he tackles as he does his science projects, with order and analysis and constant self-evaluation.
Nevertheless, he keeps stumbling, as happens when Rosie announces she is pregnant. Don manages to alienate her into leaving him, from trying too hard to do the right thing.
His efforts lead him into the dark land of secrets—a realm that alienates him from himself. (“It seemed that [my mentor] was right. Dishonesty was part of the price of being a social animal, and of marriage in particular. . . . Secrets, secrets, secrets. . . . Once, there had been no secrets in my life. And my relationships, albeit few, had not been in danger. I suspected a correlation.”)
So the first half of the book is him getting tangled up in backfiring good intentions, and the rest of the book is digging himself back out.
Thankfully, he has friends. Not very many, but they are loyal, and in their own ways just as eccentric. In helping each other they show how most people are random dots on the continuum between ideal and dysfunctional, and how sometimes being immune to social cues is an advantage.
As Don puts it: “I accepted that I was wired differently than most people, or, more precisely, that my wiring was toward one end of a spectrum of different human configurations. My innate logical skills were significantly greater than my interpersonal skills. Without people like me, we would not have penicillin or computers.”
Don’s brilliance doesn’t stretch quite that far, but it, combined with his oddities, proves to be the solution to many people’s problems. Through the poignant and amusing transition between problems and solutions, we end up seeing our commonalities, laughing at ourselves, and loving ourselves and one another.
Thus The Rosie Effect is a feel-good story that never gets sappy. Nor does it get dull, for the situations Don gets into range from absurd to bizarre to recognizably normal. Author Simsion handles the whole with grace and craftsmanship, so that life-lessons are painlessly absorbed through storytelling rather than preaching. In Don, he has the material for a lively and lovable series. Even if he stops after this book, both it and its predecessor are worth the read.