3 out of 4 stars
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The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid by Gary Robinson is a compelling novel with a basis of truth. Divided into three distinct sections, the book explores the life of the sword swallower (Duke), the tribulations of Chico Kid (Gary--whom the reader will soon learn is the author himself), and the connection between these two men. Duke, a rough-talking, drug-using alcoholic, is quite the controversial daredevil. He spends a large part of his life working with the circus performing the action which coincides with his alias--sword swallower. Cheating death as a career and acclaiming notable recognition for his freakish acts seriously drive Duke’s stamina. This man surprisingly finds refuge functioning as a mere sideshow oddball surrounded with fellow circus freaks with whom he has formed a significant bond. The Chico Kid, although well-educated, cannot seem to find his niche in life. Lack of a steady career and overall discontent, Gary typically finds himself in trouble with the law. Although these unique characters stem from different paths in life, they inevitably form a bond that is unbreakable. This story explores the wonders of companionship, love, and empathy, relating how these aspects can work together to conquer even life’s toughest adversities.
Although I could not personally identify with many of the circumstances discussed throughout the book, I did like the author’s use of irony which involved portraying virtues through unlikely sources. Given the nature of the sword swallower’s initial impression, I expected his inner character would match the rugged exterior physique. On the contrary, Duke is a caring individual, extending kindness to the less fortunate, befriending the mentally challenged, and assisting those in need—a good reminder for all humanity not to rashly pose judgment based on assumptions. Also, this novel contained many situations filled with suspense due to the characters’ risk-taking schemes. The thrill of the unknown was like watching an intense action film, making this reading adventure overly captivating. Many times, I wondered about the fate of Gary; then I remembered he is the author.
Nevertheless, I did not care for the profuse amount of vulgar language used throughout the book. In addition, I often felt confused attempting to relate to the effects that drugs can have when used/abused as I do not engage in recreational stimulants myself. The subject of religion is also mentioned intermittently, causing an uneasy feeling. I did not agree with one primary character’s particular beliefs because they totally contradicted with my faith.
Avid, open-minded readers (not partial to any specific genre) seeking works from new authors would probably enjoy Robinson’s book, granted they can tolerate an adult-themed motif. Furthermore, people who relish literature that includes both fact and fiction highlighting life’s humor as well as its sorrows may also find this novel fascinating. Notwithstanding, I believe a younger audience could not fully grasp or comprehend the mature innuendo, nor could they realistically identify with the settings. Although published in 2017, the first part of this work takes place in the 1960s. Adolescents probably would lack familiarity with the societal norms during that era, which plays a crucial role in regard to comprehension, especially in relation to character controversy.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The author’s style of writing is simplistic, and while easy to understand, presents some of the information in a redundant fashion. For example, quite a few chapters habitually mention Duke awakening to unfamiliar surroundings suffering with a hangover from the previous night’s binge. However, I do applaud this writer for giving a realistic account of his own life, rather than sugar-coating events that some may feel embarrassed to share with the public. This act gave the story a tangible concept by enhancing the truth spliced throughout the chapters. In addition, I hardly found any grammatical errors which was very impressive as this is Robinson’s first publication. A good word of advice: people who anticipate reading The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid may wish to examine the preface, as it contains valuable details they should grasp prior to getting completely absorbed in the text.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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