Book Review of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

There are some slight spoilers below – read my review on goodreads to avoid any spoilers

This book disturbed me – as any good book should. My youngest son who is now 11 years old, is mentally handicapped (our current politically correct term for mentally retarded) and also has some physical handicaps. I also have several neighbors who have mentally handicapped adults in their families who I am friends with.

Because of this, I was able to identify much more with the protagonist then I may have been able to otherwise.

The basics of the story are simple. Charlie Gordon is a man with an IQ of 68. He is happy and loving, and feels that he has lots of friends. He has always wanted to be smart so he could have more friends. (And we find out later in the book so that he could have the approval of his mother and family.)

So when he is offered the opportunity to receive an operation that may make him smarter, he jumps at the chance.

Algernon is the name of the rat that had the operation before Charlie.

The operation works. Charlie becomes a genius, although not right away. His mental ability skyrockets, and leave his social and emotional abilities lagging behind. He also develops total recal of memories he gathered growing up, but he sees those memories now through the mindset of a genius instead of the low IQ boy that he was. He discovers that most people who he thought were his friends were actually being mean to him. He discovers that people who used to like him no longer do because he makes them uncomfortable with both his genius intellect and his emotional and social gaffes.

Then he notices that the rat, Algernon, is regressing. He discovers that he will too – and as quickly as he became smart, he loses it.

The book is made up of his observations and thoughts at evey stage.

We get to see the way we treat mentally handicapped from their point of view. It is illuminating but sad.

As a funny aside, The same evening I finished this book, I watched Episode 2 of Season 2 of the TV series “Person of Interest” where the book “Flowers for Algernon” plays a minor role in the plot.

I would rate this book PG-13 for disturbing situations, and frank discussions about sex and relationships. Overall, I recommend everyone read it.

Please follow and like me:

Leave a Reply