Review of The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid

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Munmun Samanta
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Review of The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid

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[Following is a volunteer review of "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson.]
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4 out of 5 stars
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The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid by Gary Robinson:
“What I am going to do is take this sword and the other swords lying on this table next to me and drop all of them into my mouth and down my throat at once! They will pass through my larynx and down the esophagus.” Page 5
A disturbed youth and a devastating sword swallower cross their paths. What next? How did their lives, two divergent lines, meet and coalesce together? “The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid” by Gary Robinson can explain all your inquiries. The plot revolves around two characters: Gary and Dude. Though it is a fictional story, Gary is modelled on the author himself and Duke is the shadow of his friend Captain Don Leslie, a sword swallower.
Garry's life is poisoned by his irresponsible and drunkard mother. He is the ‘Chico Kid’, a student at Chico, California. To forget the disharmony of his own family, he gives himself away to drugs and alcohol. Duke on the other hand is a sword swallower who never bothers for life in future but thinks only of the present. They are two polar opposite characters. Nothing of their backgrounds match except their extreme dedication to drunken debauchery. Their miserable lives confront each other and reflect in perfect harmony.
The story is told in a flashback style, opening in the prologue, where an old grandfather receives a picture from his past that reminds him of the life he left behind. He narrates the story to his grandchild Calvin.
The book, comprising 290 pages, is divided into three parts. The first part is about a sword swallower Duke Reynolds. The second part is about a troubled youth Garry Robinson. The third part unites two condemned souls into the journey for redemption.
The language, though bright and cogent, is marked by the consistent smell of alcohol and drugs. Too many abusive and vulgar words and phrases are used in this book to keep pace with the reckless, demotivated lives, it represents.
The story glides lucidly. Clear and concise prose gives way to easy understanding. Raw and deeply introspective exposure to human vulnerability can no longer be expressed in such a way except in the writing of Charles Bukowski. It reminds me of Bukowski's novels like "Women". The book is professionally edited, and no minor grammatical errors can be red-marked. The story is poignant and evocative with naked human passion and emotional turmoil. Diversities and emotional dynamics of human existence are dragged into the central stage with a cathartic effect on the readers. I rate this book four out of five. The bleak narrative sometimes loses the intense tenacity of compactness and falls apart. Though fiction, the novel reflects contemporary social, political, and religious scenarios as experienced and reflected grimly by the characters.

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The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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