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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest  By  cover art

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

By: Ken Kesey, Robert Faggen - introduction
Narrated by: John C. Reilly
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Editorial review

By Seth Hartman, Audible Editor


My introduction to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was certainly not a standard one. Rather than starting with the novel by the counterculture writer Ken Kesey or watching the iconic film starring Jack Nicholson, I was cast in a high school theatrical production of the work. Having only done lighthearted musicals up to that point, Cuckoo’s Nest was my first taste of dramatic acting. I remember feeling both shocked and intrigued by the script, pulling from my one year of AP Psychology to try to understand the medical terminology peppered through the pages.

Though I had been exposed to politically motivated works in school before (classics like 1984, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451), I had never experienced one that addressed these issues with such realism. Rather than creating a world that is close to home yet different in some way, Kesey transports us to what feels like a real-life psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. Nurse Ratched and her gang of nurses, orderlies, and security personnel rule over the ward with an iron fist, threatening anyone who steps out of line with electroshock therapy or, for those "beyond fixing," lobotomy treatments. With the arrival of upstart patient Randle McMurphy, the lives of everyone in the hospital are changed forever.

Our narrator in this story is Chief Bromden, a larger-than-life Native American inpatient who is always sweeping the halls. Other standout characters are Dale Harding, an insecure man who hides his homosexuality by voluntarily committing himself, the nebbish Billy Bibbitt, and the overly talkative Charles Cheswick. McMurphy—who enters the ward as a means of dodging the draft, not because of overt mental illness—challenges the status quo, bringing a rebellious spirit to these men and others in the ward, while slowly driving Nurse Ratched up a wall.

Continue reading Seth's review >

Publisher's summary

A 50th-anniversary edition of Ken Kesey's searing American classic.

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Turning conventional notions of sanity and insanity on their heads, the novel tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned.

Hailed upon its publication as a "glittering parable of good and evil" (The New York Times Book Review) and a "roar of protest against middlebrow society's Rules and the invisible Rulers who enforce them" (Time), Kesey's powerful book went on to sell millions of copies and remains as bracing and insightful today as when it was first released. This new deluxe audio edition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original publication of the novel on February 1, 1962, and will be a must have for any literature lover.

©1990 Ken Kesey (P)2012 Penguin Audiobooks

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