By Chet Yarbrough
By: Nico Walker
Narrated by : Jeremy Bobb
“Cherry” is classified by critics as a semi-autobiographical novel. It is written by an Army veteran of the Iraq war.
The author, Nico Walker, judiciously introduces his novel as a work of fiction. However, his life history parallels much of what he writes. He is a veteran of the Iraq war and is now serving 11 years in prison for bank robbery.
“Cherry’s” main character is a veteran of Iraq. He robs banks to feed a heroin addiction. Nico Walker’s real life seems a version of these experiences. As some critics suggest, write what you know, but only if “what you know” is interesting. Walker’s novel is certainly interesting.
He marries and divorces a beautiful woman who is also an addict.
It is difficult for many Americans, particularly those of us who have lived long, to understand how a handsome young man can waste his life. That seems the underlying story of Walker’s main character.
Walker’s main character experiments with drugs early in his life.
Some Americans choose the military because they are making a life transition. The transition may be to escape parental supervision. Or enlistment may be related to mistakes in one’s life and a court order tells them to join the service or go to jail. Some young men and women just can’t figure out how to make a living on their own. Any one of these reasons might apply to Walker’s main character.
Walker’s character joins the Army because he doesn’t know what else to do. His reasons are not clearly identified.
Cherry is slang for a green soldier newly arrived in a combat zone.
Like all new recruits, Walker’s main character takes a military aptitude test which steers him toward assignment as an Army medic. After basic, he is sent to Iraq. He gets a front row seat to the carnage of war. On the one hand, it appears war carnage may have driven Walker’s main character to drug addiction. On the other, this fictional character has experience with drugs before Iraq.
The troubling part of “Cherry” is that it conflates atrocities of combat with drug addiction. The main character in “Cherry” uses drugs before he goes to war. One doubts a veteran who did not use drugs before war is either more or less likely to become an addict after war.
The story of addiction is bigger than war.
Putting atrocity of war aside, Walker offers a profile of a person hooked on drugs. Anyone who reads or listens to Walker’s vision of human addiction will be appalled by the downward spiral of an addict’s life. Life revolves around an addict’s next fix. It makes no difference if one is good or evil if one is an addict. The only thing that matters to the addicted is the next euphoric high.
Wars are a broadly shared political atrocity; drug addiction is a singular personal tragedy that infects society. Both may lead to the end of humanity.