The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (3 out of 5)
This is the best image of the advanced reading copy that I could find. This book, the sequel to the debut novel The Rosie Project, isn’t out until December 30, 2014. (according to the back cover of the ARC). Thank you, Wendy, at Simon & Schuster for my copy. If you haven’t read The Rosie Project before you dive into this, you’re going to be completely lost, not to mention bereft. Read that first, then give this one a whirl. Overall, I wasn’t as thrilled with this as I was with the first book; regardless, I still laughed, I still read on, and I still gave a shit. You will too, although there is a more serious tone with this book than the first. It has to be that way, because Don and Rosie are infanticipating. Don and Rosie with a baby? Holy shit. Right? Right. Read on.
Don and Rosie have settled are going on over a year of marital bliss when she drops the bomb on him; they’re pregnant! Don’s detail-oriented, logic-thinking at every crossroads allows him to process this; one detail at a time. As a result, he appears to Rosie (and the reader) to have not embraced the idea with a lot of joy. Now, if you read the first book, you know that he has Asperger’s and that’s not out of the norm. Rosie also knows this- normally. You throw some pregnancy hormones in and that emphatic nature appears to have disappeared. Don does what Don normally does and makes some real big errors in judgment; letting Gene, his cheating friend who is in the process of being divorced by his estranged wife, live with them. Rosie’s not a fan of Gene’s, and Don seems to be more worried about his friend having a roof over his head than concerned about his wife and their impending arrival. Don ends up getting fired from the second job, the cocktail job, and Rosie continues to work on getting her thesis done. Don ends up in all sorts of situations in which he has to scramble to find solutions that work in his logic bank, but often he ends up making it worse. Before long, Don has gotten himself involved in a research project for lesbian mothers, in an attempt to identify more with the plight of the mother, but that leads to more madcap capers. Rosie moves out of the bedroom, and the marriage becomes more strained. Don is also attempting to get Gene’s kids in Australia to communicate with their dad via Skype, and he ends up building a touching friendship with Eugenie, his daughter. The thing with Don’s world is this- he’s trying but failing on multiple levels, to connect with Rosie that yes he is happy about the baby, but spends a good portion of the book helping others with their family/children issues. He’s also trying to get George, his friend, landlord, retired rock star, and the “Beerlord” (hilarious part of the book) to reconcile with his estranged son. This is how it is with Don, and Rosie knows this. Normally. However, the pregnancy has changed her. The patience has run out. Don has to face the music when he finds out Rosie has fallen in love with another and she’s leaving him to go back to her family in Australia and have the baby there. What does Don do? Well, let’s just say that he does it up in spectacular fashion, trying to stop Rosie and baby from leaving him. Does he succeed? You have to read to find out.
What didn’t I like? The tone of the book is far more serious from the Rosie side. Don is still hilarious as hell, as he attempts to process the news and reality that he’s going to be a father. The usual suspects are present and accounted for, as the circle of friends rally round the couple and try to help them through their rough patch. Anything that Don tries to do to help him get his head around the ‘baby project’ ends up as a hilarious endeavor that goes wrong in a monumental fashion. But there’s something missing here. It feels like their love story has taken a back seat to the baby, which is not something that should happen when you’re welcoming a child into the world. Rosie seems to have forgotten the genesis of her relationship with Don, and who he is. That made me terribly unhappy reading the book. Otherwise, you can count on a funny, warm look at how impending parenthood can tilt everything upside down. Often it’s funny, often it’s heartbreaking. I felt like the heart of the book had been ripped out and stomped upon. The ending justified much of that feeling, although you are left with some hope for what’s going to happen to them now that Baby Tillman has arrived. I can hardly wait.