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The Rosie Effect: A Novel Paperback – July 21, 2015
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“In his bestselling debut, The Rosie Project, Simsion introduced the delightfully original character of Don Tillman, an Australian geneticist with Asperger’s syndrome who sets out to find the perfect wife by using the scientific method. In the sequel, set in New York, Don takes on impending fatherhood in the same clumsy yet endearing way, with results both funny and moving. This charming new chapter in the Tillman chronicles leaves you hoping it won’t be the last.”
“Though painfully aware of his emotional shortcomings, Don determinedly sets out to be a good dad. Hilarity ensues…Simsion’s tale offers a playful look at a how a family of two fare when a third…enters the mix...There’s a moral to this quirky story: The best things in life can’t be planned on a spreadsheet.”
“Loveable science prof Don Tillman’s perfect (-ly concocted) marriage is about to hit a major bump.”
“The hilarious follow-up to The Rosie Project, one of the best novels I’ve read in ages. There’s no sophomore slump here. Simsion brings back some of the best characters and gags from the first novel while also bringing in enough new elements to keep it fresh. It’s a funny novel that also made me think about relationships: what makes them work and how we have to keep investing time and energy to make them better. A sweet, entertaining, and thought-provoking book.”
—Bill Gates, "Top Five Books of 2014"
"Don and Rosie are back!...Readers who loved the first book are in for another treat."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"The Rosie Effect is a celebration of the best attributes to be found in a friend, a husband, or a father, regardless of the way they are expressed." —Booklist (starred review)
“This is a very funny book, possibly the funniest this year as Don organizes his and Rosie's life in New York…Every thought creates a smile for the reader who can't help responding to Don's comedic behavior…We can only hope the third installment is lurking around to produce another chuckle-filled triumph.”
—Daphne Guinness, Sydney Morning Herald
Praise for The Rosie Project
“Sometimes you just need a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Move over, Sheldon Cooper. There’s a new brilliant, socially inept scientist poised to win over a huge audience, and his name is Don Tillman, in The Rosie Project. . . .This rom-com is bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and intentional humor.” (A–)
“An utterly winning screwball comedy. . . . If you’re looking for sparkling entertainment along the lines of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and When Harry Met Sally, The Rosie Project is this season’s fix. . . . This charming, warmhearted escapade, which celebrates the havoc—and pleasure—emotions can unleash, offers amusement aplenty. Sharp dialogue, terrific pacing, physical hijinks, slapstick, a couple to root for, and more twists than a pack of Twizzlers—it’s no surprise that The Rosie Project is bound for the big screen. But read it first.”
“Filled with humor and plenty of heart, The Rosie Project is a delightful reminder that all of us, no matter how we’re wired, just want to fit in.”
“Simsion’s attention to detail brings to life Don’s wonderful, weird world. Instead of using Don’s Asperger’s syndrome as a fault, or a lead-in to a tragic turn of events, Simsion creates a heartwarming story of an extraordinary man learning to live in an ordinary world, and to love. As Don would say, this book is ‘great fun.’”
“It’s natural to be wary of a novel that’s been the target of such gushy praise. Publishers in at least thirty-eight countries have snapped up the rights to The Rosie Project, which has been touted as a ‘publishing phenomenon,’ an ‘international sensation’ and no less than ‘the feel-good hit of 2013.’ Well, squelch your inner cynic: the hype is justified. Australian Graeme Simsion has written a genuinely funny novel. . . . This is classic rom-com.”
—The Washington Post
About the Author
Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn his hand to fiction. His first novel, The Rosie Project, was published in 2013 and translation rights have been sold in over thirty-five languages. Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne, and their two children.
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The Rosie Project was a joy to read. I devoured it in an afternoon. The Rosie Effect was the opposite: I had to keep taking breaks and thinking about other things because the reading experience was literally traumatizing. This is not a fun read. It's an engaging read, because I enjoyed Rosie and Don so much from the previous book that I pulled for them and wanted to know what would happen, but it's painful, frustrating, vicariously embarrassing, anxiety-provoking, anger-making, and sad.
And worst of all? It isn't funny.
For those not familiar with the Rosie phenomenon, Don Tillman is a genetics professor whose Asperger's Syndrome (on the autism spectrum) is obvious to everyone but him. Rosie is his medical student wife. She's working on her MD and her PhD at the same time, and as if she were not busy enough with her thesis and her clinical studies, she's now pregnant.
In Rosie Project, Rosie was able to use her admirable frankness and open communication to cut through and compensate for Don's social obliviousness. She was willing to be totally blunt and straight-forward in communicating her needs and expectations, because Don does not appreciate subtlety or nuance. In Rosie Effect, she has completely lost that gift, or perhaps she's just stretched too thin and lacks patience. At any rate, Rosie and Don are no longer communicating. His social cluelessness gets him into seriously hot water -- a near arrest at a playground has him facing mandatory mental health evaluation and potential deportation -- but he doesn't tell Rosie about it (or about the snowballing consequences of that initial secret) for fear of causing her stress, which he worries might hurt the baby. Rosie assumes (perhaps because of Don's secretiveness re: the playground incident, or perhaps because of his unorthodox reaction to the news that she was pregnant) that he's not interested in or equipped for parenthood, and she starts preparing to go it alone.
See? The entire premise is not funny. In The Rosie Project, it was amusing to watch Don's clueless bumbling and wonder if he'd pull it together enough to make a relationship work. Here, the stakes were much higher, and it's not at all amusing to watch an imperiled marriage get dashed upon the rocks, especially where there's a baby involved. It was heartbreaking and anxiety-provoking to read about Don working so hard to prepare himself for fatherhood, with the best of intentions but due to his disorder making the wrong decision at every turn, and Rosie somehow completely blind to both his efforts and his struggles.
It was doubly frustrating because the Rosie I knew and loved from the first book would never have let this happen. She would never have gotten pregnant without discussing it with Don ahead of time. She would never have expected him to show up at her doctor's appointments without explicitly telling him she wanted him there. She would have told him what she needed and expected at every step in the process, rather than pulling away and letting the chasm between them grow. Her ability to communicate clearly was the key to their relationship--we always knew that things wouldn't be easy for them because Don is so different, but at the end of The Rosie Project the reader could root for them and have faith in their Happy Ever After because Rosie alone knew how to speak to Don on his level. She got him in a way no one else could. And, here, suddenly she doesn't anymore.
There's no recovery from that. Even though The Rosie Effect pulls off another Happy Ever After, I no longer believe in Rosie and Don, because I no longer believe in Rosie.
The Rosie Problem is exacerbated by the fact that in this second book, Rosie's actions and motivations are not explained until the very end. At that point, finally, the reader can understand and to a certain extent relate to her, but for 80% of the book she was distant and withdrawn and unsympathetic, and not at all the character I remembered so fondly. The explanation, when it came, was enough to make the plot make sense but not enough to restore my shaken faith in Rosie as a character.
In The Rosie Project, Don's failure to pick up on social cues and follow social conventions often got him into trouble, to great comedic effect. In the sequel, Don's obliviousness continues to land him in hot water, but these incidents are not funny any more. In fact, most of them are downright terrifying: Don nearly assaults a neighbor and chases him down the street, resulting in Don and Rosie being evicted. Don nearly assaults a cop who quite reasonably suspects Don of being a child molester, resulting in Don being mandated into mental health treatment and nearly being deported. Don's unorthodox behavior makes an federal marshal reasonably suspect Don of being a terrorist, resulting in their flight turning around in mid-air. Don may be too clueless to consider how his behavior impacts the people around him, but the reader isn't, and these incidents just absolutely are not funny.
So, my advice: if you haven't already, read The Rosie Project. It's wonderful -- funny, heartwarming, original, thought-provoking, sweet, entertaining. It's entirely delightful.
Then stop. Do not read this book. Just Stop. I wish Graeme Simsion had.
Here there be spoilers. Continue at your own risk!
I had two issues with the story that led me to dock it a star. The first is that Rosie's fundamental character seems to have changed. In the first book she was spontaneous, confident, and strong. Not long into the second book she discovers she's pregnant and begins to have existential doubt about the marriage because of this. Either the marriage was crumbling for a while and we do not get that back story, or else she goes from the Old Rosie to the New Rosie too fast for us to see the transition. And transition it is, she turns out to be emotionally fragile and when she explains why she's ready to leave Don it turns out to be because of many of the same the traits she fell in love with in the first book. She could handle his quirkiness one-on-one and thinks he'd be a great father. So what's the problem? As a father he'd upstage her as a mother. What the...that's not the Rosie we know and love.
The second issue is the number of people making accommodations for Don. I cannot get an accommodation out of an airline, even when I invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don is known to the airline for what he calls his "many contributions" but which we get the idea are actually the airline putting him on a "weird passengers that are incredibly hard to serve but who we nonetheless allow to purchase tickets" list. Similarly, the college dean mentions knowing when he hired Don that some accommodations would be required. As an Aspie, I'd LOVE to live in a world where people routinely made these kind of adjustments on our behalf. Savants sometimes get that level of adjustment but not many of them and Don is not a savant. Whereas Don's mannerisms and capabilities seem a bit over the top, the accommodations everyone grants him are beyond belief to these Aspie eyes. Your mileage may vary.
The main vehicle driving the plot is Don's experiment with deception and this works for me. I figured out early in life that I wasn't any good at lying so when asked a direct question I gave a direct answer. Family and friends quickly learned not to ask questions to which they really didn't want to know the answers. Don, in his lifelong quest to understand neurotypical social norms, sees that deception is acceptable in certain situations such as in pursuit of planning a surprise. He steps out gingerly into this slippery slope and soon finds himself plummeting out of control, trapped by his own deceit and obliged to keep embellishing the truth. It wasn't any fun when I took that ride but there's a bit of satisfaction, schadenfreude perhaps, in watching Don on that emotional roller coaster totally of his own making.
There's bound to be another book to let us know what happens after the baby is born. When it is delivered, I will read it. My hope is that by that time Rosie has recovered from her nervous breakdown, lobotomy, or whatever, and rejoins the cast as the strong, competent, fully realized female lead character that she deserves to be.