Don Tillman is my new favorite literary character. Like, ever.
In The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, Don is a geneticist and professor with a touch of Asperger’s. The Asperger’s isn’t a huge focus of the novel, but it’s important in understanding Don’s unique personality — obsessively organized, completely emotionally detached, extremely intelligent and unbelievably (but unknowingly) charming. Don has decided to use his excellent research skills to develop the “Wife Project”, a detailed questionnaire designed to find him a suitable life partner. With the help of his good friend and fellow professor Gene and Gene’s psychologist wife Claudia, Don perfects and distributes the questionnaire in person and via online dating websites. He has some enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable experiences with various applicants, but none hold a candle to the new woman in his life: Rosie.
The day Rosie walks into Don’s classroom he assumes she is there as a Wife Project applicant and proceeds to ask her out on a date. He ends up in a martial arts combat before Rosie even arrives at the restaurant for their date, and soon realizes that she possesses many qualities he does not want in a partner. Rosie, quite the wild child, isn’t too keen on Don either, but she enlists his genetics help in determining her biological father, and so begins a beautiful and surprising friendship between the two opposites. In order to find Rosie’s biological father Don is forced into a variety of new social situations, altering his well-established daily routines and providing many comical scenarios (example: he and Rosie have to work the bar at a med school reunion, so he teaches himself how to make every drink under the sun in a matter of hours and is thus a huge hit with party goers). Rosie and Don obviously fall for one another in the process but still believe — and state the belief aloud — that the other is completely wrong for them. It’s rather adorable.
I do not think this story would have worked if it were set in America (it’s set in Australia), but it is quite the charmer. And, honestly, I admire Don’s extreme organization — I feel like I’m not too far from it myself!