Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Publisher:  Mariner Books
Publish Date:  January 1, 1959
ISBN: 978-0156030304
Pages: 324

My daughter simply could not believe that I've never read this book, so she checked it out of the library and gave it to me to read.  Nice kid, eh?

The entire book is written as progress reports by the main character, Charlie Gordon.  Charlie has a very low IQ.  He can read and write a bit, but desperately wants to be smarter.  He feels like everything would be better if he were smarter.  His parents put him in a home when he was just a child and he hasn't seen them in years.  Charlie's life isn't so bad, mind you, he has a place to live, a job and friends, but still feels like he's missing out.  The progress reports are an excellent way to show his intellectual and emotional progress.

A group of scientists have been doing experimental brain surgery and think they are finally ready for a human subject.  They've only worked on mice so far, but the latest mouse, Algernon, is a hit.  He's super smart and fast.  So Charlie agrees to the surgery and the doctors find his sister who also agrees to the surgery. 

It's fascinating to watch Charlie's language and understanding change...along with his personality.  It's an incredibly emotional book. It's impossible to not love Charlie and to feel his confusion and pain as he changes.  Charlie shows us that the most important things aren't money or IQ, but kindness and love.  Even in the end, he was more concerned with Algernon than for himself.

For a book that was released 53 years ago, it's very socially and emotionally relevant.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness! To be perfectly honest, not all of us have read this either, and your summary is the first we really heard of what the book is about. It sounds heartbreaking and so important (as you said). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and we're glad to know that it's a good read. Bumping it up the TBR list…