Fictional books about characters who have a disability, particularly an intellectual disability, tend to be very moving and insightful. Characters who are misunderstood or who don’t easily blend into society, for whatever reason, have a history of being popular with readers. If the character is struggling with a disability, readers typically feel compassionate towards them and want to root for them as they watch he or she encounter and attempt to overcome one obstacle after another.
There have been many fictional stories that either centered on or prominently featured an intellectually challenged character. The following list is a sampling of some of the most touching and memorable novels that fit into this category. These reads can take many forms and span a number of genres, from romance, to family saga to crime. Some are literary classics while others are popular fiction. But each of them is absorbing and compelling in its own way.
Of Mice and Men (Ron Chaney attends the AMPAS screening)
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, which tells the story of two transient laborers struggling just to survive, is not only a great book about an intellectually challenged character, it is considered to be one of the greatest classics of all time. The relationship between these two alienated men, simpleminded Lenny and his protective companion George, with their modest dream of having a tiny farm someday, draws the reader in and deeply touches the heart.
The Light in the Piazza(The cast of ‘The Light In The Piazza’ perform onstage at the 59th Annual Tony Awards)
The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer encompasses many themes: hope, dreams, romance, a mother’s love, alienation. The sweet, lovable and beautiful young Clara Johnson longs for romantic love, but the mild mental retardation that resulted from a childhood accident makes her dream appear out of reach during an era when people like Clara were routinely institutionalized. Her mother Margaret must face a difficult decision when Clara becomes involved with a dashing young Italian on a trip to Florence in this poignant story which has also successfully been adapted to film and was a hit Broadway play.
Flowers for Algernon
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, centers on an intellectually challenged man (Charlie) whose IQ soars after an experimental brain operation. However, when the intelligence of a lab mouse (Algernon) who had the same procedure, begins to deteriorate there’s a question of whether the same fate will befall Charlie. It is a profound tale which shows how scientific experimentation on humans is an endeavor that should not be taken lightly. This popular book was also the basis for the award-winning film Charly.
The Sound and the Fury (d books and manuscripts in Christie’s auction house)
William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury has long been embraced as a great American classic. The intellectually challenged Benjy is just one of the misfits in this colorful and dysfunctional post Civil War southern family. The loss of their fortune and the proliferation of their own eccentricities deeply impact the lives of these frustrated and confused souls.
The bestselling novel Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson is a tender romance and at the same time sheds light on the ill-treatment that disabled people must frequently suffer at the hands of a sometimes small-minded and ignorant society. The childlike heroine, Annie Trimble continues to be pure of heart, with an amazing capacity for love despite the injustice and alienation with which she’s had to contend. Her salvation is a man who selflessly marries her only to learn that Annie has just as much to offer as he does.
Princess Daisy (author Judith Krantz)
Judith Krantz’s bestselling novel Princess Daisy has a fairytale quality, as its title would suggest. Sometimes sordid, sometimes heartrending this story, centering on the glamorous life of Princess Marguerite Alexandrovna Valensky called Daisy, unexpectedly touches the reader with its exploration of complex familial relationships particularly the very unique bond between Daisy and her intellectually challenged twin sister who is forced to live in an institution leading a life that couldn’t be more different than Daisy’s.