I was avoiding this book because of a oh-not-another-book-on-Asperger’s reaction. There have been quite a few lately. But a variety of bloggers pushed me on this one, and I’d glad they did so; it is delightful.
The story is narrated by 39-year-old Don Tillman, a genetics professor in Melbourne, Australia who has Asperger’s syndrome. Right away Don establishes that Asperger’s should not be considered a “negative” – on the contrary, those who have Asperger’s just have differently configured brains:
“It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organization, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment.”
But most of the time, Don isn’t talking about the syndrome, he is evincing it. He decides he needs a partner, and embarks on The Wife Project, making up a questionnaire for potential mates. He hopes in this way to eliminate:
“…the time wasters, the disorganized, the ice-cream discriminators, the visual-harassment complainers, the crystal gazers, the horoscope readers, the fashion obsessives, the religious fanatics, the vegans, the sports watchers, the creationists, the smokers, the scientifically illiterate, the homeopaths, leaving, ideally, the perfect partner or, realistically, a manageable short list of candidates.”
His criteria are fairly strict, however, and he doesn’t get many satisfactory responses, in spite of helpful input from his only two friends, his colleague Gene and Gene’s wife Claudia. Don ends up devoting his time instead to The Father Project – a quest by one of Don’s students, Rosie Jarman, to find out who her real father is. Since genetics is Don’s field, the project intrigues him. Certainly not Rosie herself – “the world’s most incompatible woman” and totally unsuitable as a partner according to Don’s criteria – and yet, he becomes irrationally committed to The Father Project, and maybe to Rosie as well.
Evaluation: Don’s literal-mindedness makes many of his thoughts and actions very, very funny, but the reader isn’t laughing at this very lovable protagonist, but with him, hoping he will beat the odds and find love, in spite of his devotion to rational systems. I certainly fell in love with him, and his story, right from the beginning.
Note: The book has been optioned for a movie by Sony Pictures, and there is a sequel.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2013