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Generally speaking, I love strange people. Let me clarify. I love the quirky, offbeat, and freakishly brilliant. These are people who might obsess over a certain historical figure or know everything imaginable about farming practices during the Neolithic period. They might read 5 books a week on whatever topic has captured their keen attention and then move onto their next area of study. If they were teenagers in the late 1980s, they made hundreds of mix tapes full of songs by unknown bands. While perhaps a bit socially awkward, these kinds of people are both infinitely gifted and gifts to our world, so I’m pleased when the offbeat get to play protagonists in novels, especially in love stories.
I recently read and loved The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion; I’m sure several of you have read this already or are on the waiting list for it. It’s generating quite a bit of positive buzz from readers and was ranked as the number one forthcoming title which librarians across the country loved in the October issue of LibraryReads. The novel’s protagonist, Don Tillman, is a brilliant geneticist, but a little unlucky in love. Actually, he’s a little unlucky in most social interactions, so he devises what he calls “The Wife Project” to help him find a mate. Because he believes that everything can be quantified, Don concocts a six-page questionnaire designed to eliminate unsuitable partners and allow him to focus on women who meet his fairly strict perimeters.
In a twist that is typical of romantic comedies, he meets Rosie—someone who is entirely wrong for him but may help him relax his routine and break some of his self-imposed rules. The predictability of the plot isn’t a liability in this case but a comfort—reminding us that making an authentic connection with another person is among the most amazing, crazy, frustrating, and beautiful experiences we can have.
I was reminded of a few other titles while reading The Rosie Project. These are quirky, unconventional romantic comedies that have a similar feel to them (annotations from Syndetic Solutions):
The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman
Meet poor Alice Thrift, surgical intern in a Boston hospital, high of I.Q. but low in social graces. She doesn't mean to be acerbic, clinical, or painfully precise, but where was she the day they taught Bedside Manner 101? Into Alice's workaholic and romantically challenged life comes Ray Russo, a purveyor of fairground fudge, in need of rhinoplasty and well-heeled companionship, not necessarily in that order. Is he a con man or a sincere suitor? Good guy or bad? His well-engineered cruise into carnal waters introduces Alice to a new and baffling concept, chemistry--and not of the organic kind. Is it possible for a woman of science to cure her own loneliness in the unsuitable arms of a parental nightmare?
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail, but they still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained and captivated by their stories. But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart, even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.
Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.