4 out of 4 stars
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"This life will not promise you anything. You are guaranteed nothing. All you have is today. This moment. Yesterday is just a memory and tomorrow in not guaranteed. All you have is this moment. Make sure you try to live as much as you can everyday. Follow your heart son." Duke to Gary
In The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid we follow two social misfits and their journey to self recognition through a hard life of drugs and near death escapes. The story opens with a familiar scene of a grandfather playing with his grandson, until he receives an emotional package from an old friend. From here we jump into a whirlwind adventure following an upcoming circus sideshow celebrity, Duke Reynolds, with his worrisome life trying to find belonging and the meaning of his life. We also meet a young man, Gary Robinson, struggling with his alcoholism from an early age, hell bent on leaving his troubled past behind and never looking back. While both of these men live different lives we start to unravel their emotions and see that underneath they are quite similar. These two lost souls eventually meet in a small town called Chico where they connect in a run down tavern.
Gary is instantly curious of this old man, covered in tattoos, hammering nails in his nose, and knows he has an interesting story to tell. Duke becomes a father figure to Gary in the short time they know each other. Duke tries to instill his knowledge and way of thinking that he has learned over the years in Gary; some sticking and some not. While on a touring trip out of the country together Gary experiences a sever accident that leaves him in a coma for quite sometime. While unconscious he uses Duke's words and wisdom to conquer his fears and confront his demons. Leaving him a changed man.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I found this book engaging and hard to put down. I found myself laughing with the characters and feeling heartbroken alongside them. The characters were very realistic and I could picture everything they did clearly in my mind as I read page after page. Robinson has a way of bringing his readers into the pages and the minds of his cast. This book is perfect for anyone who wants an original story that moves the soul and mind. You will cheer the characters on and wish to be able to comfort them when they need it.
There were very few things about this book that stood out to criticize. One being in Part 1 - Chapter 7 when the sideshow family is being introduced, it is hard to figure out who is who during this chapter; you have to keep reading to eventually understand which stage name goes with which person. It takes until the next chapter to establish that Red in the Crayfish kid because he is called both interchangeably. Another item that stood out to me was a lot of their thoughts were quoted through the text. This took some getting use to while playing the scenes out in my head because I though they were actual quotes from the characters. Overall I throughly enjoyed this read!
"Down the hatch without a scratch, I hope!" - Duke
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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