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Rezension zu
Cherry

Amerika in Zeiten der Opioid-Krise

Von: MeikeReads
20.03.2019

This debut novel is advertised as a work of fiction, but it is clearly at least partly autobiographical - it's pretty hard to find out how big the overlap between the unnamed narrator and the author is though, as Nico Walker is still in jail, serving an eleven-year-sentence for bank robbery. That's also where he wrote this novel about a guy who dropped out of college, joined the army, served as a medic in Iraq, consequently suffered from severe PTSD, self-medicated with heroin, and, short of money and with an expensive addiction to support, became a bank robber - all of this happened to Nico Walker himself. The fact that the protagonist is also the narrator gives it an even more memoir-ish feel. Long before Walker wrote the book, some media outlets reported on the author's life story, and it's very interesting to read especially Scott Johnson's article from 2013, because readers of "Cherry" will recognize parts of the book in it, as well as some people who are mentioned, and even some of the instances and environments documented in the various photos (https://www.buzzfeed.com/scottbuzz/passing-the-note-is-the-bang-how-a-war-hero-became-a-serial?utm_term=.cn0bq7YEV#.gg2bEPMkp). Walker's book combines different themes, but all of them are closely connected to a spiritually numbing sense of futility and alienation: Teenage angst, what soldiers experienced in Iraq and what this did (and still does) to them, the failure to help people with mental problems, and the raging opioid epidemic, in which people try to escape only to get trapped in the most rigid and dehumanizing system of self-harm: Addiction. Another important aspect of the book is the narrator's relationship to women: While I wouldn't say that he is misogynistic, it is striking that his girlfriend/wife, who plays a major role in the book, does not quite come together as a character and mostly works as a reflection of himself (which makes sense in the context of the depiction of the main character). Which brings us to the narrator's personality. His unreliability is part of why this book is so interesting: During the different stages of his life, it feels like we are in his head then, meaning he reflects his limited and tainted cognitive experiences while dropping out of college, being in Iraq, being on heroin and robbing banks - plus there's the question how honest he is to us as his readers. Everything feels slightly off, which is understandable, because we meet the narrator in extreme situations that would mess with anyone's mind. This does not necessarily mean that the narrator is a nice dude, but it's easy to empathize with him nonetheless. At the same time, Walker finds a distinctive voice, with short, sharp sentences, colloquial language, and more humor than you might expect in such a story. While this isn't "Trainspotting", there's a parallel when it comes to finding a recognizable voice talking about tragedy in an often nonchalant way. I was drawn into this story due to its distinct and somewhat hypnotic language, and I was amazed how Walker combines emotional urgency and alienation - but maybe those two are intertwined, because the sadness that comes with alienation is rooted in the longing for connection and a purpose, a feeling that haunts the narrator from very early on.

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