Flowers for Algernon (Throw Back Thursday)

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Title: Flowers for Algernon
Author:Daniel Keyes
Published: 1966

Synopsis:
With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

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I first heard of this book in sixth grade when part of it was printed in our language arts books. It was in the back of the book meaning that we’d never ever get to it during the school year, so I did what any book loving sixth grader would do, and read it after I was doing homework. I was hooked, not fully understanding the scope of the story. It wasn’t until later, when I re-read it for high school that it really just struck a chord with me. This novel is so beyond the time period it was written, that even now, in this day and age it’s so complex and profound. I don’t normally get around calling books profound, but this book really is. It takes the scope of human intelligence, and what defines intelligence and turns it around, really making the reader focus on what they consider valuable in humanity and that’s a really harsh pill to swallow.

This book breaks my heart into eight million tiny pieces. From the first paragraph, Charlie who wants so desperately to do nothing but gain intelligence so he ‘can have lots of friends who like him.’ is something spectacular. Later on during the novel he calls himself extraordinary, which is interesting because the word encompasses both his extraordinary mental handicaps and then his extraordinary intelligence as he progresses after the surgery. I really like how the author shows us the rise and fall of the man named Charlie. When we first meet him, he can’t even spell his name correctly, and as his world knowledge grows, you see that not only his knowledge of superficial things, but the way human minds work, to when he starts to regress. Something interesting that I noticed is that he had better interpersonal relationships when he was handicapped then when he was considered a ‘functioning member’ of society.

It might sound a little silly, but this book inspired me to take more patience with special needs people. I’ve discovered that love working with them, as I’ve had lots of opportunities to volunteer and work on a one-on-one basis with some extraordinary kids and adults.

This book…this book guys it just breaks my heart. It’s beautiful and poignant, smart and well written. It’s something that has stood against the ages, and it will always be something that I will hold dear to me.

Tell me about a book that even now grips you by the heartstrings and doesn’t let you go.

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