2 out of 4 stars
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The novel The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid by Gary Robinson is a story about the life of a famous circus performer who is always chasing the next adrenaline high, and a young man recently out of high school whose destructive indulgence of alcoholism and partying lead to his spiral out of control.
The novel is divided into three parts. The first part is the reader’s introduction to the famous sword swallower, Duke, and follows his life as a circus performer. The reader learns that Duke drinks heavily, uses methamphetamines regularly and lives each day like it’s his last. The second part of the story involves Gary Robinson, also known as a Chico Kid in the story. Gary’s story is basically about moving from one drunk day to the next and all of the trouble he creates for himself and others. Gary is a good guy, but can’t seem to get his life together to do much of anything productive. The final part of the story is about Duke and Gary meeting, becoming friends and their interactions.
This novel was very disjointed in my opinion. I absolutely loved the first part about Duke and his life. Duke is a very interesting character and this part of the book was fun to read and the characters are hilarious. The second part of the book where we meet a Chico Kid is less interesting. I really got tired of the drinking and partying and the roasting of the mammoth from the museum really put it over the top. I also felt like the author depicts women in a negative way. They all seem to be drunk lushes who can’t hold their alcohol. The final part of the book was the most confusing and the moment that the story took a sharp dive downhill for me. I didn’t understand the philosophical religious debate between the two characters and it wasn’t a compelling story line.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. While I enjoyed the first half of the book, the second half lacked the same luster. I can appreciate the notion that there are two distinct characters who have substance abuse issues that have led them both down dark paths, but the simplistic interaction between the two was not particularly the climactic moment for which I was hoping.
In summary, I think the book would appeal to readers who are not looking for complicated plots that keep the reader guessing and are more interested in character development. I also would not recommend this book to anyone who is easily offended by drugs, alcoholism or the ideas associated with atheism.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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