by Walker, Nico

Part One When Life Was Just Beginning, I Saw You
Part Two Adventure
Part Three Cherry
Part Four Hummingbird
Part Five The Great Dope Fiend Romance
Part Six A Comedown

Rashly marrying his college girlfriend to keep their relationship active during his tour of duty, a college dropout-turned-army soldier is overwhelmed by the realities of war, PTSD, and opioid addiction before forging a desperate plan.

NICO WALKER is originally from Cleveland. He served as a medic on more than 250 missions in Iraq. Currently he has two more years of an eleven-year sentence for bank robbery. Cherry is his debut novel.

*Starred Review* These days, it's not uncommon to find critics deriding that hoary piece of advice given to budding writers to "write about what you know." Sometimes, however, that approach still produces a masterpiece, and that's what we have here. Walker, a former U.S. Army medic and Iraq War veteran, became a heroin addict and went to prison for bank robbery. The narrator of his debut novel is also a former U.S. Army medic who becomes a heroin addict before turning to bank robbery to support his habit. The story of that descent, which also involves his wife, a fellow addict, is unsparingly raw and utterly gripping. This is an astonishingly good novel, written by someone who clearly has a gift for storytelling. Walker's characters, even minor players and walk-ons, are beautifully drawn. His dialogue rings achingly true. His story is powerfully told and completely without pretension. The novel, which has already generated considerable buzz, beginning with its remarkable backstory (the author wrote it on a typewriter in prison, eventually attracting the interest of an editor at Knopf), could well become one of the season's smash successes.  Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

In this unsettling debut, a young man raised in the middle-class comforts of America encounters war, love, and drug addiction. After the narrator awakens on the first page, he is "looking for a shirt with no blood on it" and then for his rigs—the apparatus of heroin addiction—to get him and his partner, Emily, in shape for the day. She has to be at school by 10 a.m. to teach college students remedial writing. The two met at 18 and now they are 25, living in a Cleveland suburb. Walker opens and closes the story in the couples' present at age 25, while the bulk looks back at how the unnamed narrator found Emily and lost her and went off to war in Iraq in 2005. The writing is raw, coarse, and sometimes forced: "Your new friends would eat the eyes out of your head for a spoon." Yet it often has a brute power, tapping the unadorned, pointedly repetitive language of addiction or battle. The IED "took off both Jimenez's legs and severed one of his arms almost completely. But he was still awake and he knew what was happening. He was screaming." So many patrols deal with bombs or breaking into suspect houses: "Just IEDs. Just kicking doors. More IEDs. More doors." Soldiers look for distraction. Two of them make snuff films with mice. Some do drugs because the Army stops checking urine. On his release from the Army, the narrator reconnects with Emily and copes with PTSD. "In these years I didn't sleep and when I slept I dreamt of violence." Heroin takes over, with its own awful monotony. They are "spending over a thousand dollars on dope, every week." She keeps teaching. He robs banks. A bleak tale told bluntly with an abundance of profanity but also of insight into two kinds of living hell. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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