A big believer in evidence-based science, Australian Professor Don Tillman is 39 years old, “tall fit and intelligent with a relatively high status and an above average income.” He should be attractive to women and succeed in reproducing. Yet he is alone. Dating is a disappointing waste of time.

After he is asked to give a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome, Don decides to solve his problem scientifically. He develops his Wife Project – a massive questionnaire designed to weed out incompatibles and identify women most likely to be a match. Intelligence, punctuality, shared tastes, and no use of tobacco or alcohol are high on the list of desirables. His only friends, geneticist Gene and psychologist Claudia, humor and support him. Gene and Claudia have an open marriage, which means that Gene’s “research” involves his bedding many women of different nationalities.

Into his life comes Rosie—a wild, disorganized bartender who smokes. She is totally incompatible. Curious about her biological father, Rosie inspires Don to develop the "father project" as a way of identifying all possible candidates and then eliminating them one by one using DNA. Circumstances force them to work together at various other schemes—running a one-off bar for which Don, the non-drinker, becomes a walking encyclopedia of cocktail recipes. A trip to New York City results in more hilarity, further destabilizing Don’s equanimity. His stereotypical assumptions are challenged when he discovers that she is completing a PhD on the side. They have fun. But Rosie cannot be the right one because she would fail the questionnaire.

Eventually and predictably Don realizes that it is Rosie whom he wants and needs. He develops the Rosie project to win her back. He also shows Gene that the wonderful Claudia is about to leave him and that open marriage is for the birds—or is it the bees? Happy endings all round.


The most remarkable thing about this entertaining novel is the insider, first-person view of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome who, despite his great intelligence, is unaware of his own diagnosis.

Writing in the fashion of a thought-experiment, the author is an experienced businessman with a PhD in data modeling from the University of Melbourne. His wry almost cynical portrayal of research is “spot on,” and his insight into an Asperger’s mind, brilliant and informed. The tenacity and obsession of academic investigators emerge as elements of a wide spectrum between normal and abnormal.

Don gives the lecture without recognizing the same symptoms in himself. He understands that he cannot read human emotions and speaks of interpersonal relations in objective language that we associate more with animal biologists than with anthropologists. Aside from loneliness, however, Don is comfortable with who he is – deriving much of his equanimity from obsessive adherence to rules and schedules. He and Rosie learn to accept each other; their compatibility cannot be identified through the factoids of a questionnaire. Love, affection, and attraction are ineffables that defy scientific reduction.

Reviewers have claimed that the book provides a good introduction to the nature of Asperger’s syndrome, but some have criticized it for the unwarranted claim that love will heal all. The ending may be a bit too “Rosie,” but it is satisfying all the same.



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