4 out of 4 stars
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The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid is a work of fiction that is split into two parts, both written by Gary Robinson. The first half follows Duke Reynolds as he swallows swords with his circus family throughout America and eventually the world. Duke causes trouble for himself by giving into, and not fighting off, the meth and alcohol addiction, which is ironically supported by his employers.
The second half of the book revolves around the misadventures of a character who shares his name with the author. Gary leaves his alcoholic mom to party his way through his college years, earning a degree without any of the knowledge. His drug and alcoholic ways catch up to him only after floating through several low paying jobs. After going to jail for a month, Robinson finds meaning in working with disabled youth within the community of Chico.
A common thread that connects the two stories, that I’ve found, is that both protagonists have alcohol and drug problems that are only made better by their time in jail. The quirky nature of these stories endure them to the reader, so even if the characters act in less than legal ways, the audience is more inclined to find sympathy for them. Another commonality between the storylines is the protagonist’s proclivity towards oddities, or freaks as they say. This leads to the characters meeting interesting people and getting into unique and often humorous situations.
I give this book four out of four stars for its easy and consistent pace and an enjoyable ensemble of characters. While there are instances of repetition found scattered throughout the first half of the book, it only serves to emulate the repetitiveness inherently present in the life of a carnie. There is a similar feeling of repetition in the second half of the book in terms of Gary’s constant partying but is much less pronounced. Rather than going through the motions and specifically stating the same aspects of the act like how was done with the sword swallower, Robinson gives a general overview of his four years in college.
Despite the rating, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone that wants to read about someone who struggled with their inner demons to beat their drug/alcohol addictions – the characters in this book rid themselves of that problem with what seems to be only the passage of time.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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