Good morning! Sorry I’m a little late getting this posted today (oops). Sam had a rough night, and I spent the whole of it “sleeping” on the floor of his room. Needless to say, it’s been a slow start to my Wednesday…
Anyway, last night was Book Club at my house, and we had a great time discussing The Rosie Project (a little bit), and sipping sangria, snacking chips and salsa (my faves), and just hanging out. One of the things I most enjoy about hosting Book Club is the opportunity to invite friends from all different parts of my life (church/work/high school/ and – this time – local blog friends), and having the common thread of a book we all read. It makes for an easy conversation starter, and it’s a great time to introduce people and make new friends!
Here are a few thoughts on the book:
I had heard a lot of hype about The Rosie Project when I first chose it as our Book Club title (in particular from Modern Mrs. Darcy – a very respected source in my book); in fact, I think maybe I’d built it up a little too high before I started reading it…
The storyline is cute; but, honestly, not very original. (Our Book Club found it especially similar to the movie Along Came Polly and As Good As It Gets.) Even the idea of Don creating a 16-page questionnaire to find his “ideal mate,” is pretty much the same thing Match.com has been doing for decades. Am I right?
I did appreciate the humor in the book, however. I thought Don was incredibly like-able – and I found myself rooting for him in lots of different situations throughout the novel. It really never occurred to me when I was reading – in large part because he wasn’t really ever officially identified as having Asperger’s although it was certainly implied – but there, apparently, was some criticism about the way Simsion portrayed individuals on the autism spectrum. Some argued that he “made fun” of Don and that our laughter was “at his expense,” but I totally disagree. Instead, I actually found it kind-of refreshing to read a book about a person on the autism spectrum without it being the primary storyline. I thought this book, more than anything, showed how someone with Asperger’s is really quite similar to everyone else – Don’s thoughts and behaviors weren’t that much different from anyone in the dating/falling in love scene, he just was a bit more analytical and mentally verbal about it (although I did totally crack up every time he described someone by their estimated Body Mass Index).
Overall, I’d score this one about a 6 (which was also about the average at Book Club). This is kind-of a low-ish score, but I reserve 7 and up for books I really really love. I enjoyed The Rosie Project, but I mostly just thought it was a fun and cute read. It didn’t leave a lasting impression on me, and it didn’t stir up huge emotions or thoughts. I don’t think it is a book I would re-read, but I would recommend it to a friend to read on the beach and will definitely be in line to see the movie whenever it comes out! I’m also not so sure that I think this was a great pick for a Book Club discussion – while mostly everyone enjoyed it, there just wasn’t really that much to talk about.
That said, I did give it a good effort… Here are the questions that I used to guide our discussion on Tuesday night:
1. Don thought he could find his “perfect match” based solely on common interests and compatibility using his 16-page questionnaire. Why did this method not work? What other factors contribute to finding a partner? Do you agree with Rosie that this method “objectives” women, or do you think it is a “good start” like Bianca did?
2. This book has received some criticism for “making light of” or “making fun of” people with Asperger’s/Autism. What do you think of the way autism is handled in the novel? Does the humor in the novel come from Don’s awkward responses to social situations or the absurdity of falling in love in general? Did you feel like you were laughing with Don or at him?
3. What did you think of Gene? Was he a good friend to Don? What about his marriage to Claudia? Why do you think the author included their storyline? Don accuses Gene of being just like him. Certainly, from the outside, they seem very different, so what does Don mean? In what way are the two men similar?
4. Through the Father Project, Don comes to see that morality and ethics are nuanced. What brings him to this point? Is morality nuanced? Is there such a thing as a purely moral/ethical stance as Don, up to this point, always believed? At the conclusion of the Father Project, were you surprised to discover who Rosie’s real father was?
5. At what point do you think Rosie starts to view Don as a prospective partner? Did your own feelings towards Don change at a particular point in the novel? What was your favorite scene? Why?
6. Rosie’s belief that Don’t can’t feel love makes her reluctant to be in a relationship with him. He tells her that he does feel love — it’s the ability to empathize that he struggles with. Do you agree that empathy and love are two separate things? Do you think one needs empathy in order to love? Do you think Don is really capable of loving Rosie? Don says that he feels happiness with Rosie… Is that same as love? Or, is his concept of love – compatibility and pleasure in each other’s company — a better basis for marriage than feelings? Do you think their marriage will last?
7. The Rosie Project can be read as a novel about tolerance and acceptance, but it also makes a case for people to take control of how others perceive them and change their behavior if necessary. Do you agree with this view? In the end, do you feel happy for Don when he “eliminates a number of unconventional mannerisms” (p. 268) in order to win Rosie, or has he lost something? What other changes does Don make over the course of the novel… not just in his appearance or social behavior? Do you think the changes are mostly positive or negative?
*The English teacher in me says it’s best not to have 10 million (or even 10) questions, but seven was as few as I could get – there was, surprisingly, a lot to think about. Also, as a general rule, I like to use the questions to simply “get us talking,” but let the conversation kind-of go where it will… THAT SAID, I do try to keep us focused for at least about a 30 minute “book talk.” I’m all for socializing, but I find that if people actually did read the book, they really do enjoy and appreciate a chance to discuss it. Just my two cents if you ever host your own.