For the longest time, one of my best friends kept badgering me to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. She ranted and raved about how amazing the book is, and since it’s a literary classic, I decided to give it a try. I’m really intrigued by mental asylums and people with mental disorders, so I was excited to dive right in, especially since Kesey spent a lot of time shadowing asylum patients to craft each character 100% accurately. I was prepared to cry, laugh and feel every other emotion she swore I would. After finishing the book, it’s safe to say the only thing I felt was a small amount of sympathy at maybe two parts.
Going into it, I had high hopes for this book. I had heard so many good things about it and I always take advice from my friends with a lot of heart. The beginning was slow, but whenever I start a book I always make myself finish it. It takes a lot to interest me, so at least getting through the first two chapters is important for me to actually get into a good book. That’s what I expected to happen, but I never ended up getting into it like I should have.
It was only halfway through the book that I realized why it was boring me: there’s no apparent plot. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what the plot is. McMurphy is there to shake up the hospital, but since it’s narrated by Chief, it confused me a lot. Chief is a half-Native American patient who has vivid hallucinations and believes he is trapped in a corporation called the Combine. Since he has such deep hallucinations, Kesey uses too many descriptive words to describe everything, and it’s a bit much for my taste. It only contributed to my confusion. If you are too descriptive, my mind gets lost. The simpler the better for me. I appreciate his need to include the descriptive scenes to fully encapsulate how cuckoo Chief is and the symbolism behind his visions but it was just too much in my opinion.
Once you get past parts I and II, I admit, it does get better. Since McMurphy’s goal is to defy the warden, Nurse Ratched, it’s thrilling to see him rebel and go through the series of conflicting emotions he feels. Nurse Ratched has the ward wrapped around her finger and plays into each character’s insecurities in order to maintain power, so to read McMurphy’s outright defiance was riveting. Only towards the end of Part IV is when I found the most interest in the novel. A series of events that you don’t expect play out, resulting in a conflicting ending.
Whether it’s happy, sad or both is totally up to your own interpretation. I understand why people rave about this book, yet I didn’t feel the same effect. If I had to rate it, I’d probably give it 3 out of 5 stars, which isn’t bad, but isn’t necessarily good either. It’s definitely a book you are really into or are really bored throughout. Don’t let this review discourage you from reading it if you wanted to; you may have a different experience than I did. There’s two sides to every story, and I just couldn’t find the good side of this one.