Review by Shrabastee -- The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid

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Shrabastee
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Review by Shrabastee -- The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid

Post by Shrabastee » 16 Jan 2019, 06:45

[Following is a volunteer review of "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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A few anchoring points in life are often necessary to properly orient ourselves. Lacking these strings, we tend to drift like a piece of paper caught in the wind. Gary Robinson’s life had probably been something akin to that before he chanced to meet Duke Reynolds, the famous sword-swallower. The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid is the life story of the author himself. The character of Duke Reynolds was based on Don Leslie, his real-life acquaintance. The book consists of three parts, the first two narrating the lives of Duke and Gary, respectively. The final part shows their friendship and the resultant profound change in Gary’s previously aimless life.

While reading, every moment felt like a new adventure. I started each new page without knowing whether the end of that page would find me smiling or in tears. I frequently pondered how it would feel to experience such a colorful and eventful life.

This, however, does not mean that life was rosy for Duke and the other sideshows. Robinson provides ample glimpses into the stark reality behind the engaging performances the circus offers. For instance, the performers cannot even spare a single moment mourning the demise of their fellows, because “the show must go on.” Moreover, it was disconcerting to see the circus authorities giving out free methamphetamine to the employees to help them cope with the back-breaking schedule.

The humorous instances adorning Duke and Gary’s lives provided a significant contrast to the otherwise grim circumstances. A couple of times, I could not even decide whether to be annoyed at their reckless behavior or be amused at their jokes.

The descriptions of sword-swallowing deserve particular mention. To the author’s credit, I never found these scenes repetitive. Every time the act was described, I found myself holding my breath, praying for Duke’s safety.

Characterization was undoubtedly a strong feat of this book. Duke is one of those people who can excel at anything they decide to try. Gary himself describes the sword-swallower as the embodiment of self-reliance. I liked his notions of God and the scriptures. I admired his logical mind and risk-taking behavior. However, one thing I absolutely could not tolerate was his addiction to meth. However, no matter how imperfect and flawed Duke was, he was a reliable and sincere friend. I also experienced a deep sense of sympathy for Gary, our other protagonist. As a troubled kid, he was in the clutches of alcohol. Throughout the book, I was pining to see him achieve some control over his life.

The best part about the book was the utter honesty Robinson’s accounts exuded. Gary related his reckless life without any inhibition. He vowed to take up writing in the hope of changing someone else’s life, and he remained truthful to his promises.

I do not have many negative points to mention. The narrative relating Duke’s life sounded a little flat compared to the second part of the book. In addition, the author incorporated a couple of page-long quotes that could have been presented in a more easy-to-grasp way. However, those aspects did not at all detract from my reading experience.

This book deserves 4 out of 4 stars. Very few typing errors suggest it was professionally edited. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs and character-driven books. However, most readers would find the instances of alcohol and drug abuse bothersome. Additionally, devout believers of God might be offended by Duke’s concepts. Apart from those, this book has been a very fulfilling read.

******
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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Helen_Combe
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Post by Helen_Combe » 18 Jan 2019, 18:26

Great review, it sounds like a fascinating glimpse into the world of sideshow which most of us inky see from the outside.
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Shrabastee
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Post by Shrabastee » 18 Jan 2019, 22:07

Helen_Combe wrote:
18 Jan 2019, 18:26
Great review, it sounds like a fascinating glimpse into the world of sideshow which most of us inky see from the outside.
Exactly so, Helen! Thanks for the comment.

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Post by Vscholz » 18 Jan 2019, 22:34

I enjoyed this book so much more than I anticipated. Like you, I wasn't sure how each section would end. I'm glad I gave it a chance. Thanks for the review!
As for you & your heart & the things you said & didn't say, she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits. (Schmendrick the Magician)

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Post by Bavithra M » 20 Jan 2019, 22:47

It creats an intrest within me to read the book after reading your review. The review is neat and detial. Thanks for the review. The storyline of the book is beautifully explained.
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Post by Espie » 23 Jan 2019, 06:56

A few anchoring points in life are often necessary to properly orient ourselves. Lacking these strings, we tend to drift like a piece of paper caught in the wind.
I'm impressed by those words. So profound! Thank you for your insightful review.
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Post by Sunnyroyish » 05 Feb 2019, 05:02

Circus is getting extinct due to modernisation. I remember watching a circus when I was only 7 years of old. The book gives an insight into the lives of people related to circus. Sounds like a touching book. Hope to read it one day. Thanks for the review.
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Post by Lunastella » 05 Feb 2019, 20:08

However, most readers would find the instances of alcohol and drug abuse bothersome. Additionally, devout believers of God might be offended by Duke’s concepts. Apart from those, this book has been a very fulfilling read.
I actually have quite the opposite view on this topic. I understand that addictions are not an easy subject to talk about, but I think it's important to acknowledge them, as well as the hardships that addicts go through and the consequences they have.
I agree that the characters are very well-developed and the wit and humor of some parts of the book make it quite enjoyable.
I loved your introductory phrase in this review, amazing as always.

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