Hard Candy, Nobody Ever Flies over the Cuckoo's Nest; Book Review

HARD CANDY: Nobody Ever Flies over the Cuckoo's Nest; Written by Charles A. Carroll is a must read.

This book should be sitting on the desk of every governor, senator, representative, every director, educator and all students in departments of human and social services, psychology and public health available as a ready reference to the bureaucratic nightmare and lost humanity of a system set up to protect and care for our abandoned children and our mental and physically deficient citizens of all ages. Hard Candy is a must read for anyone who even pretends to care about the welfare of our children. This is an unforgettable saga of the will of a young human spirit to survive incarceration in one of our nation's institutions with living conditions so sadistic, brutal and degrading that "child abuse' doesn't come near describing this disgrace.

I had the privilege of meeting the author and reading an advanced copy of this soon to be released book. The ever gracious host, Charles has devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge and generating awareness about the abuse that still occurs to this day inside such institutions. Do not for one moment think that his is a tale of yesteryear and we have fixed the problems, improved the system.

Told with the innocent clarity of a young child interspersed with the accumulated knowledge and hindsight analysis of the adult, this true story travels through a decade during which the author as a young boy was repeatedly abandoned by the system and lost in the tombs of a bureaucratic hell.

Left on the doorsteps of an orphanage as a toddler with his less than one year older sibling who was probably borderline retarded, this is a tale of an enduring love between two brothers who had no one else in life but each other. Never loosing the impish grim and charming good looks, Charles along with his brother traveled from orphanage to foster home to state institution to foster home and back to state institution. As a court order required the brothers not to be separated, a terrified young Charles found himself joining his brother in a state facility for boys with mental disabilities, "a nuthouse" as one would call it. No one bothered to notice that this was not an appropriate placement for a perfectly normal little boy.

The story relates in chilling detail the daily living horror that was Charles' life. A normal youngster dumped in with society's outcasts in a nightmarish hell of abuse, hunger, filth, punishment, neglect and unending loneliness. A world where almost all adults he encountered continued the pattern of outright brutality and physical abuse or in true institutional form looked with strong blinders the other way and just did their time at the job. A world where children were left just to sit for years, suffering unending misery and boredom, never given the chance to develop their natural capabilities in any manner. The will to endure, protect his brother and survive kept Charles placing one small foot in front of the other each despairing day. The will to maintain his sanity in an insane place, to endure suffering no child should ever be expected to face and to survive to bear witness against an unjust and little known system gives Charles the strength to speak for the all but forgotten.

Michelle Portney

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