4 out of 4 stars
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The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid written by Gary Robinson is a fictional story that is split into two parts. The first half follows Duke Reynolds, a runaway kid, who joins the circus as a sword swallower. This was not his first act in the circus though, hear about the many things he did as he travelled with the circus and how he became a sword swallower. He talks about the relationships he has formed through his life as a performer, and relationships that were lost because of this life.
The second half is about a young boy named Gary from Chico, who causes trouble for himself after going to college. He leaves his alcoholic mom to party through college and continue that same lifestyle out of college. What can Duke and Gary possibly have in common? How can Duke influence Gary’s life? Is Gary going to learn how to swallow swords?
The common part of both of their stories is that both protagonists have alcohol and drug problems that landed them in jail. The time that they spent in jail was a switch in their character and caused them to seek more than the life that they had built for themselves. While these characters are acting in illegal manners, the development that they go through causes the reader to feel sympathy towards them and builds an understanding of why they would act in those manners.
I give this book four out of four stars for its consistent pace and enjoyable characters. While the first part of the book repeats itself a few times, it really gives you an idea of what life for carnies is like. The repetitiveness allows the reader to picture each time that Duke is performing his act. The novelty of the act does not wear off with each time that you read it, and I think that was what was trying to be portrayed. The second half of the book still has the repetitiveness so that the reader can see the same theme starting in Gary’s life.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to see a new perspective on the life of someone struggling with addiction. This is not a book that I would pick up to read normally but I am glad that I decided to give it a try. I was worried that I would not connect with the characters because they lived very different lifestyles than my own, but I was able to learn from them and that was where I felt connected with them.
The bond between the two characters was beautiful and that is something I feel that everyone can enjoy. The story lacks any extra fluff when talking about any of the characters or their relationships and leaves it to the reader to think about how established these relationships are. When negative things happen to any of the characters, the reader still feels connected to them and understands the impact that these actions have on the person and others in their life.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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