3 out of 4 stars
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Duke Reynolds is a man with many extraordinary talents. He left home at the age of 15 to join the circus as a sword swallower. He also performs other acts including The Human Blockhead and The Human Volcano. The members of the circus sideshow become his eccentric family. The tattoos he wears on his body tell a tale of his life and his life journey. Duke continually toes the line with his problem with alcoholism and keeping his job with the circus. He also winds up in jail on a few occasions due to his drinking problem. Once the circus life is no longer an option for him, he performs on the streets making a substantial income.
Gary Robinson is a man with very few obvious talents. He left home at the age of 18 due to his mother’s drinking, which is quite ironic since Gary has drunk continuously since the age of 15. He miraculously graduates from college with a BA in Economics even though he rarely attends any of his classes. After college, he realizes he has very few options for employment and resorts to partying and drinking with his friends. He also winds up getting into trouble due to his alcohol consumption and spends some time in jail. Gary is feeling completely lost in life until the day that he sees Duke performing one of his gigs.
I felt the author developed the characters exceptionally well during the course of the story. The fact that both Duke and Gary struggled with alcoholism at some point in life established a bond between the two of them. One of my favorite aspects of the story was how Duke took Gary “under his wing” and tried to assist him. It was as though Duke saw a younger version of himself in Gary and wanted to help steer him onto a better path in life than Duke himself had taken. As their relationship develops, it turns out that both of the characters provide insights which touch both lives equally.
Gary genuinely surprised me on several occasions with many of the clever things that were said by him. I kept going back and forth in my mind trying to decide if these brilliant monologues from Gary felt natural or not. In the end, I found I enjoyed these small nuggets of intelligence from Gary even though they did not go entirely well with the flow of the book. Other than this, the story flowed along at a nice pace, and I found myself interested in the lives of the characters and learning more about the specific struggles they faced.
I give The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid 3 out of 4 stars. I found the story to be well written with very few grammatical errors. The one thing that I questioned was the way Angel fell for Gary so quickly when he prominently displayed all of the signs of severe alcoholism. She makes plans to meet up with him after her divorce even though she reveals an apparent dislike for anyone who has an issue with alcohol. I would recommend this book to mature readers. Most definitely not recommended for younger readers due to the recurring references to drug and alcohol use.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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