Nico Walker’s ‘Cherry’ Will Take You on a Journey of Scumbaggery (Book Review)


cherry book cover

Book: Cherry

Author: Nico Walker

Publisher: Knopf

Published: Aug. 14, 2018

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-novel-Nico-Walker/dp/0525520139

Stars: 3/5

Nico Walker has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high.

You will find no heroes in this story about service members deployed to Iraq, drug addicts and bank robbers.

In fact, the protagonist in Nico Walker’s debut novel, Cherry, is so detestable, you might find yourself hoping he fails. Because he deserves whatever comes to him, and here’s the thing: he’d agree with you.

Cherry published in 2018 and received much buzz because it was written by a man who is currently serving time in prison for robbing banks. He also happened to be an Army medic in the Iraq War and a heroin addict.

And perhaps that might have been one of my greatest qualms with the book; I didn’t feel like I was reading a novel. The story felt like a memoir, with its raw, choppy narration told in first-person from an anonymous narrator—who is obviously the anti-hero of the story.

The Story

Boy meets girl. Boy gets high with girl. Boy and girl break up. Boy and girl get back together. Girl goes to college. Boy joins Army. Boy marries girl. Boy goes to war. Girl cheats on boy. Boy returns from war. Boy and girl divorce. Boy and girl get back together. Boy and girl get high.

Welcome to the first modern-day story about the modern-day opioid epidemic.

So Here’s the Deal

Not everyone is going to love this book. There’s a lot of cussing (I mean, A LOT). There’s a lot of sex. There are even some scenes that depict animal cruelty, to show the complete soulessness of certain characters.

I don’t mind the cussing and the sex. That’s life. The animal cruelty did bother me, but I understand why Mr. Walker included those scenes.

My Take

My issue with the book is the complete scumbaggery of the nameless protagonist and narrator. He has no redeeming qualities to help us root for him despite his flaws, except that maybe he loves dogs.

And then there’s the writing. At first, I thought Mr. Walker was using a highly stylized approach so his character would appear disconnected from reality (like a drug addict). But after reading the acknowledgements section, I realized this was the best Mr. Walker could write.

The crude coarseness of Mr. Walker’s writing did have its advantages though. His story has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high. I appreciated this perspective.

I didn’t hate the book necessarily, but I suppose I wanted more from Mr. Walker—some higher epiphany or realization by the end. But the story just felt … hollow. Shallow. And a little bit sad.

But maybe that’s the point of Cherry. If so, Mr. Walker definitely accomplished his goal.

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