Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man, undergoes an experiment to increase his intelligence, his life changes in ways he never imagined. But will the intelligence increase be permanent.
I first became aware of Flowers for Algernon when it was mentioned in an episode of Newsradio. I forgot about it until that episode of The Simpsons inspired by it, when it was discovered Homer had a crayon lodged in his brain. I'd mostly forgotten about it again until it popped up for ninety-nine cents in one of my BookGorilla emails.
Flowers for Algernon is one of those stories I wish I would have read years earlier. It's simply marvelous. It's about the nature of intelligence and how intelligence can be divisive. It's a very emotional book.
Personally, this was a very powerful book for me. For a lot of my time in school, I was way ahead of the curve and didn't really click with other kids. As Charlie's intelligence grew, eventually surpassing even the scientists that experimented on him, his feelings of isolation increased and I felt a lot of kinship toward Charlie. His difficulties fitting in were the cherry on top of the lonely sundae.
As Charlie's intelligence grew and he comprehended things from his past, it was hard not to feel sorry for him. Once he starts sliding backward, the book keeps getting more and more sad. Keyes doesn't mind kicking you in the emotional junk, that's for sure.
I love the way the book is written in periodic progress reports from Charlie. It's perfect vehicle to show his increase in intelligence and eventual decline. There were man-tears shed over the course of the book. I had to set the book down a few times to keep from sobbing in my cube.
Flowers for Algernon is one of those rare science fiction novels that transcends the genre. Five out of five stars.
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