Book Discussion: The Rosie Project

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Every book club I start off with the same question. Did you like the book or did you not like the book? It was unanimous, they all liked the book, I had talked to two people at a Halloween party and they both said they were not big fans of the book, but neither of them were able to attend book club.  I had shared with the group that they didn’t like the book, and we were all wondering why. I couldn’t speak to how they felt, but told them it had to do with not liking the main character, which started off the discussion. 

Do you have to like the characters in order to like the book? 

This same topic came up during the discussion for the book The Dinner. Most people who didn’t like the book it was because they didn’t like any of the characters. The ones who did like the book liked it but said they don’t have to like the characters in order to like the book.  I often don’t have to like the characters in order to like the book, but if I don’t like any of the characters it’s harder for me to stay engaged, making it more of a challenge for the author to keep my attention.

Do Don’s Asperger’s conditions help him or hinder him? Does Don’s having Autism offer any advantages in his life?

It was discussed that most adults that have Asperger’s don’t know they have it. If you have ever seen the show Parenthood, this is similar to the story of Ray Ramano’s character, Hank. Hank is introduced to Max, who does have Asperger’s and after Hank gets to know Max he realizes that they have a lot in common, and him having Asperger’s could be partially responsible for why he struggles with relationships in his life.  Most people in book club knew someone who has Asperger’s, like Don stating a person's BMI when he first met them, someone knew a person who asked what type of vacuum each person had upon meeting them. If you're curious I have a shark! :-) 

In the book Asperger’s helps Don by giving him the ability to focus and to manage his time efficiently. In a scene where he bartends he is quite skilled being able to remember everyone's drink orders!

Do you agree with Don’s assessment that “humans often fail to see what is close to them and obvious to others?” (pg. 88) 

Humans don’t see what are often closest to them. So often I find that when people get mad at someone else, they often accuse that person of doing something that they themselves have done! I think it is very important to step outside of ones self every once in awhile and try to see the big picture. Sometimes I think people have it in their head that something is one way and they refuse to see it differently. 

What do you think of Gene and Claudia’s relationship? Do you know anyone with an open marriage? Can it work?

This was a very interesting topic of conversation. One that they talked about in the podcast Dear Sugarthe pocast I am always referencing. They talked about how relationships have changed over the years, and maybe humans aren’t meant to love one person for their entire lives. Humans’ life expectancies have doubled, so maybe we are no longer meant to be with one person for the rest of our lives. 

There was one person at book club that said, “Can’t we love someone and be with them, but still find someone just physically attractive and want to jump their bones?” Well then it was brought up why even get married? 

Gene made it seem like Claudia was aware of their “open relationship” but Claudia wasn’t participating in other relationships and always seemed sad. It was said that if anyone is in an open relationship more than likely there would be jealousy issues, that in the end will result in ending the relationship or ending the “open relationship” status.

As Don’s affection for Rosie grows, he becomes aware of his instincts overriding reason. What is the role of instinct versus reason when it comes to choosing a life partner?

You may have a lot in common with someone and it seems like you would be perfect together, but you may not have the chemistry you were hoping to. It’s important to balance your instinct and reason. You don’t solely want to rely on chemistry either because that won’t sustain a relationship for the long haul. If you ask me when you meet the right person it’s just the right mix! I have been in relationships that were solely based on chemistry and I have had relationships that should have worked out because we were perfect on paper, but neither of those relationships lasted. 

Is it smart to have a list of criteria for a potential partner or is it limiting?

Everyone has different ‘deal breakers.’ They won’t date a smoker, someone with different political views, someone who listens to country music, or someone who hunts. When I was younger I had these 'deal breakers.’ But you know what they say, never say never. I once said I wouldn’t date someone who didn’t love coffee and now I am engaged to someone that hates coffee! I think that if you have ‘deal breakers’ you should decide what are superficial ‘deal breakers’ and what would really ‘break the deal.’ I myself, think that having a list of criteria limits you because in my own experience if I would have stuck to my list of ‘criteria’ I wouldn’t be with Mike. What’s more important that Mike likes coffee or that he makes me laugh each and every day.  I think it’s good to put your ‘criteria’ into perspective. I think it’s more important that your partner treats you right, then if you listen to same music. My list of criteria evolved as I grew up, wanting someone that had the same interests as me evolved into someone that has the same values. 

Don gets in trouble with the Dean for using the genetics lab for his personal project with Rosie. Is it ever okay to break the rules in order to help someone? 

Genetic testing is very personal it should not be done if the other party isn’t a consenting participant. That was the consensus of the discussion, but I didn’t really feel like Don was doing something super unethical. I felt like Rosie had a right to know who her Dad was. 

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?

Don tried to manage his behavior to impress Rosie, but Rosie liked him best when he was weird. Rosie was corky herself! When it comes to dressing differently Don thinks of clothes as ‘costumes’ so it isn’t something that is important to him. 

Additional comments during the discussion:

-Everyone’s damaged. 

-Don became the ‘fool’ to keep people from laughing at him. 

-Don messed up the dance with Bianca on purpose. 

-Autism and OCD are two different things but they have some similarities, people who are autistic and people who are OCD aren’t very flexible and sometimes they can have rigid personalities. 

-People are creatures of habit, one person in the group mentioned when she goes to a multiple day conference she likes to sit in a different seat the next day just to see -how people react. 

-Someone brought up that Don’s questionnaire was more to find someone that would have accepted him than the other way around.  

-Don is a virgin. He’s had sex but never with another person.

Please continue the discussion! If you have any additional comments or questions please use the comments session. Those of you that read the book, but were unable to attend the discussion, we would love to hear your thoughts!

Next Book: December 3