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Publisher's Summary

Charlie Gordon knows that he isn't very bright. At 32, he mops floors in a bakery and earns just enough to get by. Three evenings a week, he studies at a center for mentally challenged adults. But all of this is about to change for Charlie. As part of a daring experiment, doctors are going to perform surgery on Charlie's brain. They hope the operation and special medication will increase his intelligence, just as it has for the laboratory mouse, Algernon. Meanwhile, each day Charlie keeps a diary of what is happening to him. This is his poignant record of the startling changes in his mind and his life.

Flowers for Algernon was first published as a short story, but soon received wide acclaim as it appeared in anthologies, as a television special, and as an award-winning motion picture, Charly. In its final, expanded form, this haunting story won the Nebula Award for the Best Novel of the Year. Through Jeff Woodman's narration, it now becomes an unforgettable audio experience.

©1966 Daniel Keyes (P)1998 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1966
"A tale that is convincing, suspectful and touching." ( The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Phenomenal Classic

Beautifully written classic tale of Charlie Gordon, a man with mental retardation who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to cure his “condition.” Charlie is mentally and physically abused by his mother and teased for the entirety of his 32 years. He enters into therapy, and an accelerated learning program, attending classes and racing mazes with the first subject, Algernon the mouse. Keeping a diary, Charlie tracks his current progress and remembers the painful details of his previous memories with new clarity.

The story questions the attitudes and sickening treatment of people with special needs and the isolation felt from being on the outside looking in. I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s, “Pygmalion.” Eliza Doolittle, like Charlie, becomes a subject in a test to prove those believed inferior can transform to the norms of society. The question ignored is when emotional immaturity doesn’t catch up quickly enough with newfound intelligence and the pitfalls therein. The human being is ignored for the advancement of science. Charlie also struggles to find meaning and purpose. All of these themes are explored in depth by Keyes and the narrator is phenomenal; moving back and forth with spot on cadence and dialect, perfectly emoting the evolution and regression of Charlie.

Outstanding novel.

184 of 187 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 05-30-14

Walk with a Swagger

It made me sad as I kept reading "Flowers for Algernon." I'm roughly the same age as Charlie and also was born with a disability. I could had had been mentally retarded, but by mother nature, my disability is different than his. I really don't think when Daniel Keyes was writing this book, he was going for the science fiction genre, but more how society treat people differently base on their mental status.

As Charlie gets smarter and smarter, he is treated differently and his attitude becomes more pompous as he learns more and more. He is no longer the happy go lucky guy that used to mopped floors in the bakery. As the experiment becomes more successful, he starts losing himself.

I can relate to Charlie. Although I am not a genius and I was raise in a loving family, the flashbacks of Charlie's parents is so real to me. For example, when his mother seeks for a cure to his mental retardation, I also had a similar instant in my life. For me, I had every treatment that my grandma could think of to make me try to walk or use my hands. None of the treatments worked and my family was forward thinkers at the time and gave me every resource to succeed.

If there was a magic cure to relieved me from my Cerebral Palsy and be like Charlie and be normal, I wonder how would my friends and family treat me. More importantly would I be walking with the norm, or would I be walking with a swagger and start to distance myself from people that I use to know?

This is an extremely powerful book. There is so much to the story other than the lab rat and the science experiment with the mentally retarded. A book like this is very rare these days.

"Flowers for Algernon" was published in 1959 and I have yet to read anything else that touch me.

Pure excellence. .

113 of 115 people found this review helpful

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Don't Even Debate It, Just Click "Add to Cart"

Any additional comments?

The story and narration were superb and the plot was engrossing. After listening to about 60+ nonfiction books I have started to dip my toes into fiction--particularly science fiction. I remember listening to a classmate give a review of this book in a high school English class and decided to use one of the 'ol two credits on this one. Smart decision. Even though I knew the ending before I hit the play button, the journey--as any good book reveals--is more important that mere facts.

The ending will hit you.

90 of 92 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Writing and Incredibly Good Narration

Although written in 1966 based upon a short story published in 1959, nothing about this book is dated, hackneyed or trite. In fact, little would need to be changed for it to pass as a recently published novel set in the 1960s. The current Wikipedia entry for this book notes three main themes: treatment of the mentally disabled, the conflict between intellect and emotion or happiness, and how events in the past can influence a person later in life. Keyes does effectively develve into each of these issues, particuarly the last. However, for me, the deeper issue is Keyes' subtle, unstated questions about the value of all life, particularly the lives of those with little awarness of their own worth. In addition, Jeff Woodman's narration was superlative. His voice, inflection, cadence, etc. gave life and meaning to Charlie's character in a way that complemented and added to Keyes' writing. I listen to audiodbooks about 20 hours each week, and few books have affected me like this one in months. Give it a try.

58 of 59 people found this review helpful

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  • Brett
  • Charlotte, NC, United States
  • 08-04-14

Didn't Remember THAT in High School...

This is a clever book in so many ways and it attempts to confront so many social and philosophical questions - questions all the way up to the meaning of life.

I read this story in high school and remember it being pretty good, so I decided to read it again. What I found was a much different book. Now I know why there were rumors about it being provocative. I must have read the cleaned up version, with none of the main character's sexual hang-ups. This book is tragic, sad, and thought provoking. I recommend it for a book club.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Glorianne
  • BOULDER, CO, United States
  • 01-21-12

You won't forget this story.

I saw the play of this story years ago but could not remember the plot so I decided to listen to the book. I will never think about intelligence and society's perceptions the same way again. Perhaps because the novel is a much more in-depth exploration of Charly's psyche, the book stuck with me in a way the play did not. In the beginning the stuttering prose is frustrating, but it is such a necessary component of the novel and the gradual transformation to the point where Charly is speaking over your head sneaks up on you. Charly's reactions to the world change as his understanding of the world changes, and the reader can't help but reflect on the themes on a personal level.

39 of 41 people found this review helpful

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An amazing experience

I have heard about this book many times but have never read it or watched one of the movies or TV shows based on it, but I decided it was about time that I did. Written originally as a short story in 1958 and later in 1966 as a novel it is an amazing tale of a mentally challenged man who science turns into a genius with an incalculably high IQ even though he still has the emotions of a child.

As narrator Jeff Woodman brings this story to life, he does an incredible job presenting Charlie through his many changes and growth along with the people around him that I regularly forgot that only one actor was conveying the story. Not many narrators have done that for me and this performance is the best I have heard in an audio book so far.

29 of 31 people found this review helpful

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A wonderful story, an excellent narration

I have loved this story ever since I saw the movie version, "Charly," with Cliff Robertson. So I was looking forward to reading "Flowers for Algernon." The audiobook did not disappoint. The narrator did an excellent job of adapting his voice to the many characters in the novel, which enhanced the listening experience. The story, which was originally a short story and was expanded by the author into a full-length novel, was as moving as the movie had been. All-in-all this was an enjoyable audioibook.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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beautiful and heartbreaking

this is deservedly a classic. there is much to think about regarding intelligence and enhancement. if you value what makes you an individual this novel will grip you and haunt you. one of my all time favorites.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

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Moving story about mental retardation

A warning to parents: In high school, I must have read (and enjoyed) the short story Flowers for Algernon was based on rather than the full length novel. Now it has been decades, and I could be wrong, but I don't remember the short story having any sex in it. Although very good, a lot of sex is in the full-length version. It's not graphic like a romance novel, but a character in the story has an active sex life. There are also references to sexual desires from the point of view of a mentally retarded character.

Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. The narrator was outstanding and completely believable as Charlie Gordon, a mentally retarded man who undergoes experimental treatment to increase his IQ after studies on a mouse named Algernon show potential. It chronicles his intellectual as well as his social/emotional development and raises questions on how society looks upon and treats the mentally retarded. It was written in the 1950s, but the story is timeless.

I think that this book, more so than others I've read, really needs to be listened to to fully appreciate it. It's told in first person in the form of Charlie's progress reports, and the narrator's voice reflects the change in Charlie's mental abilities as the story progresses.

Great character development as far as Charlie goes, less so for other characters. Still highly recommended.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful