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.”) A singles party and a speed-dating event prove equally fruitless.
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, according to the Wife Project questionnaire. Yet Tillman is intrigued when he learns that Rosie is seeking the identity of her biological father, and he’s thrown by the fact that he has such fun in real life with someone who appears so inappropriate on paper.
Simsion, a former IT consultant, wrote “The Rosie Project” as a screenplay. He later turned it into a novel, and last year he won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. The buzz spread fast: Sony Pictures has optioned the screen rights.
Reading this novel, you can’t help casting the film in your head: Who’ll play the lovably awkward (and, the book makes clear, fit and handsome) 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.
Ianzito is a writer and editor in Washington.