We are first introduced to Don when he decides to pursue The Wife Project. To Don, finding a partner is not just dating, it is a mission. He even compiles a questionnaire, which his friend Gene, a serial playboy and psychology professor, assists him in distributing. Through many failed dates, we learn that Don is not an ordinary guy in any sense. But, we also learn that he is a very interesting person; and maybe a diamond in the rough for someone who takes the time to get to know him. (These are my opinions… you should let me know what you think once you read the book!)
In chapter six we meet Rosie, who Don thinks is a respondent to his Wife Project survey and a bartender. We later learn that she is a PhD student with a part-time gig bartending several nights per week. (She did not respond to the Wife Project survey.) He takes her out for a disaster dinner date that turns into a wonderful evening.
“I have used the word stunning to describe women, but this was the first time I had actually been stunned by one. It was not just the costume or the jewelry or any individual characteristic of Rosie herself: it was their combined effect.”
After being kicked out of the restaurant, Don and Rosie cook dinner at his apartment and spend the evening drinking wine on his small porch. (Aww!) During this time, Rosie explains that she is interested in identifying her biological father, who she knows was her mother’s medical school classmate. Her mother passed away when Rosie was a child, leaving her with few clues. Drawn into this genetics mystery, Don diverts his attention from The Wife Project to The Father Project to help Rosie identify her biological father.
“On the way home, I resumed my analysis of the Rosie situation. I realized that my actions had been driven more by instinct than by logic. There were plenty of people in need of help, many in more distress than Rosie, and numerous worthy scientific projects that would represent better use of my time than a quest to find one individual’s father.”
Even with Don’s proclivity for logical (as opposed to emotional) decision-making, he elects to continue the project with Rosie. The book unfolds into 10% scientific mystery, 90% rom-com as Don and Rosie travel to collect specimens to test the DNA of Rosie’s mother’s classmates. My favorite scene was when Don and Rosie devise a plan to attend the medical school class reunion to collect as many DNA samples as possible in a short time span. Solution: join the bartending staff and collect samples from empty drinks. But, of course Don had to practice first.
“My intoxication was a result of the Father Project—specifically my need to gain competence as a drinks waiter. I had purchased a cocktail shaker, glasses, olives, lemons, a zester, and a substantial stock of liquor as recommended in The Bartender’s Companion in order to master the mechanical component of cocktail making… I practiced first for accuracy, then speed. At 11:07pm, I was exhausted and decided it would be interesting to test the cocktails for quality.”
However, more than any particular scene, I found it most interesting to see the world through Don’s experiences. He sees events and social interactions in such an analytical and rational way—somewhat foreign to my own experiences. In one scene, he does not realize quickly enough that he should be covering up for a friend’s white lie.
“Julie seemed unimpressed, and in reviewing the interaction with her later, I realized Gene must have lied to her about his reason for not being present. This was presumably to protect Julie from feeling that her lecture was unimportant to Gene and to provide a justification for a less prestigious speaker being sent as a substitute.”
Throughout the Father Project and his journey with Rosie, Don is consistently aware of his differences from others, oscillating between feelings of superiority, acceptance, and self-doubt surrounding his disconnection with his emotions. At one point, he thinks that this inability to understand others’ emotions is equal to an inability to love another person. Yet, he finds this is not true.
“I reviewed the very simple logic. An inability (or reduced ability) to empathize is not the same as an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic.”
Such a great read. And keep your eyes peeled for the movie—Sony Pictures optioned it last fall!
Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic."