Cherry – Nico Walker
“Emily’s gone to take a shower. The room’s half-dark and I’m getting dressed, looking for a shirt with no blood on it, not having any luck.”
Soldiers, wars, and bank robbers; the American dream.
Cherry is Nico Walker’s first and only book. Published in 2018 as a semi-autobiographical novel, it debuted at number fourteen on The New York Times bestselling list. The Russo brothers bought the movie rights within days after publication.
Walker was a medic himself in Iraq before leaving the army with numerous medals and commendations. A publisher contacted him after Buzzfeed profiled the soldier-turned-bank-robber. A few years later, they released Cherry.
The story follows an unnamed young man through half a dozen years of his life. Jumping from job to job and girlfriend to girlfriend, he eventually drops out of college and decides to enlist in the Army. Upon his return, the narrator becomes addicted to opiates, lives in poverty without a job, and turns to robbing banks instead. Along with his on-again-off-again wife Emily, they try to live a normal life amidst the American opioid epidemic.
Cherry was written on a prison typewriter by a man who didn’t want to write it, and it shows.
- It’s refreshingly honest. The novel is written in an almost Ernest Hemingway style of stark truth. Life in the army, fighting in Iraq, and being addicted to drugs, there’s no sugar coating on any of it.
- There’s a sense of neverending possibility throughout the novel. The narrator kills rebels in Iraq, casually robs a dozen banks during the afternoon lunch, and decides to grow drugs in his basement. Despite his poverty, he seems to live a life without limits and you never know what’s going to happen next.
- It’s one of the first American novels that showcase the reality of war. It’s intense, it’s horrifying, it’s unimaginable. Young men die for no reason, regardless of experience or age, and Walker shows what happens behind the scenes.
- It’s bleak and dull. Nothing good happens, nothing even remotely okay happens. Even vaguely exciting things, such as the narrator’s first mission in Iraq, is lifeless and drab due to the way Walker wrote it. It’s simply boring.
- The characters have no personality. This is a novel featuring soldiers, bank robbers, and drug addicts, and yet not a single person is interesting. They’re bland and one-dimensional (I loathe to even use ‘two-dimensional’ they’re so generic) and no one has any goals, motivations, or hopes.
- There is no plot. None. At all. Not even a tiny little subplot. The narrator jumps from college to Iraq to bank robbing without any semblance of order. There’s no redemption arc or character development, no lessons are learnt and good doesn’t triumph over evil, because there isn’t even enough of a plot to have something good or evil.
Overall, I’d give Nico Walker’s Cherry a one out of five. It’s a disorganized mess of misogyny, racism and drug abuse.
I’d recommend this novel to absolutely no one. It’s a farce of a novel that’s terribly written and full of vulgar language and toxic masculinity.
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