A PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FINALIST
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: THE NEW YORKER • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY • VULTURE • VOGUE • LIT HUB
Jesus' Son meets Reservoir Dogs in a breakneck-paced debut novel about love, war, bank robberies, and heroin.
“Nico Walker’s Cherry might be the first great novel of the opioid epidemic.” —Vulture
“A miracle of literary serendipity. . . . [Walker’s] language, relentlessly profane but never angry, simmers at the level of morose disappointment, something like Holden Caulfield Goes to War.” —The Washington Post
It's 2003, and as a college freshman in Cleveland, our narrator is adrift until he meets Emily. The two of them experience an instant, life-changing connection. But when he almost loses her, he chooses to make an indelible statement: he joins the Army.
The outcome will not be good for either of them.
As a medic in Iraq, he is unprepared for the realties that await him. He and his fellow soldiers huff computer duster, abuse painkillers, and watch porn. Many of them die. When he comes home, his PTSD is profound. As the opioid crisis sweeps through the Midwest, it drags both him and Emily along with it. As their addictions worsen, and with their money drying up, he stumbles onto what seems like the only possible solution—robbing banks.
Written by a singularly talented, wildly imaginative debut novelist, Cherry is a bracingly funny and unexpectedly tender work of fiction straight from the dark heart of America.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Cherry has the makings of a cult classic: an unfiltered, unforgettable voice and a complete disregard for taboo and good manners. Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical novel follows an unnamed college dropout who joins the military, leaving behind his enigmatic girlfriend, Emily. After "playing a soldier," Walker’s hero comes home to Emily, but PTSD and other pressures push the couple ever deeper into heroin addiction. To support their habit, the book’s self-described "scumbag" narrator starts robbing banks. Darkly funny and gut-wrenchingly raw, Cherry makes Walker part of a swaggering tradition of literary bad boys including Hubert Selby Jr., Hunter S. Thompson, Irvine Welsh, and Denis Johnson.
A man who likens himself to a "stray dog with the mange" descends into addiction in this frustrating debut. Walker's unnamed narrator begins the novel as "a soft kid" from a stable home, a vegetarian shoe store employee dating a college classmate named Emily who likes Modest Mouse and Edward Albee. But when Emily transfers, he fails out of school and enlists in the Army as a medic, reasoning "I don't have any other ideas." He wastes time in Iraq "waiting for the war to happen" and grows further apart from Emily. Upon returning home to Cleveland, the narrator starts "getting into the OxyContin pretty hard." He traipses through a parade of new women before Emily reenters the picture, having started using drugs herself. "There was nothing better than to be young and on heroin," the narrator writes. Some readers may find the innumerable descriptions of the Sisyphean life of an addict suitably transgressive. For everyone else, the insistence on Emily's culpability for the narrator's degeneration, as well as the depiction of other women as useful only for sex, make the novel feel like it's willing to describe the catastrophe of its narrator's life, but not truly examine it.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This was a great read.
A little like eavesdropping on the mind of a millennial heroin addict.
Enjoyable as long as you like a glimpse into the void of apathy, indifference, despair and addiction told in incomplete sentences by a millennial. I couldn’t put it down.
Easy/quick read and very entertaining. I enjoyed it.