This book is a sequel to the adorable, funny book by Simsion, The Rosie Project. and this post may include spoilers about that book. I would recommend reading the first book if you get a chance.
The Rosie Effect begins approximately one year from the end of The Rosie Project. After their very unusual but lovely courtship, Don and Rosie have married and relocated from Melbourne, Australia to New York City. Despite some of the quirks of Don’s Asperger’s personality, he and Rosie seem to have settled into a happy relationship. In the first chapter Rosie surprises Don with the news that she is pregnant. Don, a man made most comfortable by schedules, planning, and spreadsheet-driven research is caught very off guard by her announcement. As he tells readers, “I was happy in the way that I would be happy if the captain of an aircraft in which I was traveling announced that he had succeeded in restarting one engine after both failed. Pleased that I would now probably survive, but shocked that the situation had arisen in the first place and expecting a thorough investigation into the circumstances.”
At first the book continues on its merry way, giving readers humorous glimpses of Don fumbling through his attempts at preparing for baby. He is unaware of what to expect of Rosie or what is expected of him and is surprised at the extent to which he must find out on his own what to do. For example he has no idea that he is expected to attend doctor’s visits, speculate on the sex of the baby, or chat about possible names.
Soon though the humor dissipates into heartbreaking sadness as Rosie begins to lose faith in Don. Her previous understanding of his difficulty with social situations and emotional relationships quickly evaporates and his missteps at helping her adjust to pregnancy begin to infuriate her. When she expresses her displeasure at his ignorance and his social awkwardness, Don doubles his efforts and soon begins researching pregnancy on every level: he spends time with babies; researches diet, exercise for expectant mothers; learns the physiology of pregnancy and the science of birth; and even finds them very best of the baby gear.
Rather being appreciative of his efforts and feeling loved by his attention, Rosie grows even more distant and judgmental. Soon she accuses him of knowing too much and making her look like a bad mother-to-be. Don, is seems, cannot win. He slowly comes to agree with Rosie that he is not a suitable father and that their marriage should end.
I found this story so distressing and felt so sorry for Don. While in the first book his missteps seems harsh and at times cruel, in this book his efforts are so genuinely for the benefit of Rosie and their baby that I cannot forgive his wife for her outrageous expectations of perfection. As I woman who has been pregnant three times, I understand the wild emotional roller coaster that ensues. But any woman who loves the man with whom she is making a family should have it in her heart to recognize his efforts, especially — as with Don — they are motivated by such obvious love.
In the end it is not Don that sways Rosie back to their marriage but their motley collection of friends who work very hard to show her what a capable and caring husband he is and father he will make.
While not nearly as charming as Simsion’s first of the pair of stories, it does deliver some important thoughts about marriage: that both partners must be honest with one another — both about their fears and their expectations; that they must have high, but realistic, expectations about the future; and that when working from the same blueprint, two loving adults are almost certain to do right be their children.