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Originally published Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 3:06 AM

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‘The Rosie Project’: scientist seeks a proper mate

Graeme Simsion’s new novel, “The Rosie Project,” actually lives up to its hype: it’s an authentically funny romantic comedy, about a man who tries to apply scientific methods to finding a wife.

The Washington Post

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‘The Rosie Project’

by Graeme Simsion

Simon & Schuster, 295 pp., $24

It’s natural to be wary of a novel that’s been the target of such gushy praise. Publishers in at least 38 countries have snapped up the rights to “The Rosie Project,” which has been touted as no less than “the feel-good hit of 2013.”

Well, squelch your inner cynic: The hype is justified. Australian Graeme Simsion has written a genuinely funny novel. It’s told in the voice of a 39-year-old genetics professor named Don Tillman, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that affects his social skills. He has only two friends: Gene, a philandering fellow professor, and Claudia, Gene’s psychologist wife.

Encouraged by his friends and knowing that “married men are happier and live longer,” Tillman begins the Wife Project — an earnest attempt to find the proper mate. He’s “tall, fit, and intelligent,” he tells himself. “In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing.” In the real world? Not so much. He starts his search disastrously, with a questionnaire for potential dates that includes freakishly selective questions such as “Do you eat kidneys?” (The correct answer is “Occasionally.”)

By chance and apart from the Wife Project, he meets Rosie, a woman who smokes, can’t cook, doesn’t exercise, is chronically late and declares herself a vegetarian — all of which flat-out disqualifies her. Yet Tillman is thrown by the fact that he has such fun in real life with someone who appears so inappropriate on paper.

Reading this novel, you can’t help casting the film (it’s been optioned by Sony Pictures) in your head: Who’ll play the lovably awkward lead character? Paul Rudd, maybe. Rosie? Jennifer Lawrence, in “Silver Linings Playbook” mode. Definitely.

There’s no denying that this is classic rom-com. “I had been living in the world of romantic comedy,” Tillman notes toward the happy ending, “and this was the final scene.” The rosiest news of all is that it’s not the final scene: Simsion is writing a sequel.

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