Hello everyone, I’m back with another book review. I have been reading like crazy so I will be publishing many book reviews this week. I hope you enjoy.
McCormick, Patricia. Never Fall Down. Baltzer + Bray. 2013. 224 p.0061730939.
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Memoir
Never Fall Down tells the story of a young boy named Arn who lives in Cambodia with his family. He sells ice cream and hustles people for change to make money. One day, soldiers who call themselves Khmer Rouge infiltrate his town and force everyone to leave. Thus begins the end of Arn’s happy childhood. They march everyone to the countryside and tell them they will come back after three days but three days go by and the soldiers tell them that they will go back after another three days. During this long march to their new location, many people die from exhaustion and Arn gets separated from his family. He finds himself in a labor camp where he learns quickly to obey the soldiers and above everything else: survive.
One thing that immediately struck me was the voice and point of view that McCormick chose to write from. She wrote this as a memoir through Arn’s perspective as this book is based on a true story. She writes with Arn’s broken English as though Arn was telling the story himself: “I don’t know what this is, this Revolution. But I think maybe this guy not too smart. The rich, they chase you if you steal their things. Poor people, they the one who share” (pg. 24). This added to its realism instead of reducing it down to merely a fictional story. I do want to say that this book goes through some gruesome and vivid detail so if you are uncomfortable with that, this book is not for you. Personally, for me, I felt like I went on a journey with Arn, one that was filled with death, destruction, loss, heartache, and the cold feeling of war. One of the greatest things I felt while reading the novel was pure empathy for Arn. At times when he feels pride, you feel it too and for me, despite anything he had done, I could still see an innocent boy thrust into a world of darkness that he was never meant to be in.
Once again, I believe this book would be more suited for individual reading due to its graphic detail. But if I were to teach using this book, I think it would help tremendously to first study the historical period it is based upon. I had never heard of this genocide in Cambodia before I read this novel nor had I known about Arn Chorn-Pond and I strongly think it should be covered in world history courses if it’s not. And I would definitely hold discussion circles about this novel because I feel like there’s so much to talk about. Arn’s values and morals are questioned and the definition of a monster can be interpreted in many ways so I think this book would lend it itself beautifully to many deep, interesting discussions.
Honestly, I haven’t even thought about a rating for this novel. I’m still blown away by what Arn had experienced and lived through. It is tremendous but at the same time, should be respected and honored. So I apologize but I will leave the rating blank for now and if I revisit this book one day and decide to give it a rating I will. It’s very odd for me not to give it a rating but right now, it does not feel right to.
Thank you for reading this review. Next book review is… “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I’m excited to read this one, many people have said only great things about it.