This past year, I embarked on a literary journey to read about topics that I have a difficult time understanding. My goal has been to improve understanding of individuals in these situations. One of the topics I have focused on has been genocide which lead me to Patricia McCormick’s brilliant novel, Never Fall Down.
Never Fall Down tells the tale of Arn, a Cambodian boy who grows up in that country during the 1970’s. As the story opens, he is living a typical teenage existence, enjoying the sunshine and the possibilities of life, eating ice cream, and playing games with his friends.
His life suddenly changes for the worse as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge take over the country exterminating people it perceives as lacking in worth in its vision of society. Arn lives in a labor camp where daily people disappear never to be heard from again.
One day, a soldier inquires if anyone in the camp can play an instrument and Arn volunteers. He plays revolutionary songs and fights for the Khmer Rouge army in a war he never truly understands. Music allows him to cope and ultimately leads to his deliverance.
The sights, sounds and smells of this novel are visceral and disturbing. Did I enjoy reading Never Fall Down? I can say that I did not-it was a difficult read; while at the same time being a very valuable one. It peels back the layers of living through a genocide to explore the utter tragedy and triumph of the human spirit.