What I learned from the novel, Cherry, by Nico Walker is that the anomie that has invaded our society is destroying the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the young people in our country.
Cherry is a distressing novel to read as it describes a young's man's decision to enter the military because he has no purpose for his life and gets sent to Iraq which he experiences as a senseless and stupid war where he watches the senseless deaths of his fellow soldiers as they terrorize and bully the local populations for no good reason that he can discern. He then returns home and engages in a life of heavy drug use whcre his time, energy, and talents are occupied with scoring his fix for the day. It appears that the only thing that makes him happy is when he obtains his drug supply to get high with his girl friend, wife, ex-wife, and then girlfriend again, Emily.
The narrator describes the wanderings of a lost soul in stark, bleak, and minimalist terms. As his drug addiction deteriorates further and further he starts robbing banks to obtain the money to support his habit.
The matter of fact recounting of depravity is somewhat captivating for its genuiness and authenticity. The narrator thinks of himself as a loser and readily, if not somewhat satisfyingly, admits this fact as if it would be enough of an excuse to justify the continuation of his life style.
The story leaves me somewhat disgusted and then just sad that things in our society have come to this. The description of activities and events the characters engage in seem so joyless that the waste of human potential is almost overwhelming.
The even sader thing is that in my personal life and as a psychotherapist I have known and worked with people like the characters in the novel. The mortailty rates of the so called "opiod epidemic" are very high and close to home. The spiritual poverty in our communities is so great that what our society offers to people suffering is chemical relief from drugs that become mortally toxic leading to first death of the spirit and then the body.
As Unitarian Univeralists we have something to offer our suffering communities, but we have not found effective ways of attracting and engaging people with what we have to offer. We must creatively design, organize, and deliver activities of uplift which facilitate life giving relationships providing relevance, and meaning upon which people can build their lives.
Cherry is a dark book and difficult one to read. It is best read by a mature audience who have abundant compassion for the suffering souls among us.
Cherry earns a 7 on the UU A Way Of Life 10 point scale.