Beatrice Reviews “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
★★★★★

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The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In 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?


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.

I remember the first time I heard about this book. Chandler Bing, one of my favorite characters from FRIENDS, made a reference to it. “But we can’t live in the small apartment after we’ve lived here! Didn’t you ever read Flowers for Algernon?” To which, Joey made a not-so-witty reply (being Joey of course).

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When I started reading this novel, I did not expect the level of emotional attachment I would form with the characters to be so deep and truly, in a sense, profound. This story isn’t about some mouse on the cover (as some people believed it to be) but a tale of humanity, hope and the strength of the human spirit. This novel being classified as part of the ‘science-fiction’ genre, I did not expect it to explore the human condition in the way that it does.

I am afraid. Not of life, or death, of nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been.

Charlie Gordon has an IQ of 68. Everyone sees him as a retard, a moron. No one sees him for what he truly is: a human being. In his pursuit for normalcy and social acceptance, Charlie is admitted into an experiment designed to increase his intelligence to a nearly ‘super-human’ level. Of course, such endeavors come at a price. With self-actualization comes the bitter truth that the sheltered life he leads is not what it seems.

Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.

The book examines a number of things and ultimately raises the philosophical question of the meaning of life. Everything you think you know is put under the lens. In the process of examining several themes such as mental disabilities, kindness, intelligence and human nature (and how often those three things overlap), Flowers for Algernon begs the question of what it means to be human. Should our self-worth be measured through our IQ, or through the capacity we have for love?

How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.

I do not wish to prattle on about my love for this novella too much but I sincerely urge each of you to go read it. Flowers for Algernon is a godsend for those of us who have lost our appreciation for the simpler things in life.

The human civilization continues to seek ways to expand its’ intelligence and in turn, dominance over this world. In this journey, we have to make sacrifices to achieve such greatness but at what cost? At what point in our search for fulfillment will we have lost too much of our essence? At what point will we think to stop, breathe and reconsider what it means to be human?

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The 2019 Redemption Reader’s Journey

I would call this one a challenge but I thought – hey, why not mix it up a little?

Totally not because my previous reading challenges have crashed and burned due to my utter lack of continued persistence to keep it going.

Jokes aside – this will be my year of redemption. I’m absolutely determined to read all these books by December 31st, 2019. For the books that stand out, for either good or bad reasons, I’ll be posting book reviews (hyperlinked where available).

May the Gods of Literature provide me the strength, energy and renewed passion for the written word to make it through this list!


Italicized – read / completed month
(R) – book review available
Bold – currently reading / current month

Month Target Genre Book
February
Romance Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe (R)
Romance The Next Together 
Romance Persuasion
March
Historical Fiction The Book Thief
Historical Fiction The Red Tent
Historical Fiction The Tattooist of Auschwitz (R)
April
Mythology The Palace of Illusions
Mythology Who Fears Death
Mythology The Rise of Sivagami
May
Novella Animal Farm (R)
Novella The Little Prince
Novella Flowers for Algernon (R)
June
Sci-Fi Ready Player One
Sci-Fi Brave New World
Sci-Fi Here and Now and Then
July
Contemporary A Thousand Splendid Suns
Contemporary Fangirl
Contemporary Norwegian Wood
August
Drama Waiting for Godot
Drama The Kiss Thief
Drama Big Little Lies
September
Fantasy American Gods
Fantasy A Game of Thrones
Fantasy An Ember in the Ashes
October
Horror In the Miso Soup
Horror Misery
Horror Stillhouse Lake
November
Manga Tokyo Ghoul
Manga Akatsuki no Yona
Manga Otoyomegatari
December
Romance Let it Snow
Classics A Christmas Carol
Crime The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding