Flowers for Algernon

I picked up Flowers for Algernon at a book sale in the fall and after seeing a Reddit post about it last month, I decided to bump it to the front of my queue.

Flowers for AlgernonSummary

Charlie Gordon, a 37-year-old man with an IQ of 68, takes classes at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults to better himself. When Charlie is chosen to be the test subject for a surgery that could drastically improve his mental performance, he’s ecstatic because he’s wanted to be smart his entire life.

Within a few months of the operation, Charlie’s IQ nearly triples. The college students and professors he so admired now seem amateurish and ignorant. While he has grown intellectually, though, Charlie is still lagging behind emotionally, making relationships difficult.

I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.

When Algernon, the mouse who got the surgery before Charlie, starts acting erratically, Charlie and his researchers worry about what will happen to Charlie.

Review

Warning: My review contains spoilers!

Who knew a missing apostrophe could be so heart-breaking?

Flowers for Algernon is told through a series of progress reports written by Charlie. His first several reports are full of misspellings and grammatical errors. As he grows intellectually, there are fewer and fewer errors and then none. Even though I knew what was coming at the end of the book, it was still so sad to see that first missing apostrophe. 🙁

It was painful to see Charlie break out in anger over his mental deterioration, because he knew what was happening and although he was trying, there wasn’t anything he could do to prevent it. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and I couldn’t help but think about him when I read that part.

Although it’s tragic, I highly recommend Flowers for Algernon. If reading isn’t really your thing, there is a short story version that some people recommend even more than the novel. I haven’t read the short story, so I can’t say which I prefer. Either way, go forth and read it!