4 out of 4 stars
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Where will the author take me today?
Anticipation begins to build as I pick up my Kindle each day to read The Sword Swallower and the Chico Kid.
This book is in two parts. The first part is the story of a circus side show performer, Duke Reynolds. Duke is a tattooed, drug addicted, alcoholic, sword swallower that has travelled with the Mitterrand Circus since he was 15 years old.
Beginning in early spring each year, the circus embarks from South Florida on it's trip of many stops along the east coast, all the way to Maine and back to Florida.
The author takes you into this fascinating world with humor, love, and wonder.
In the off season, Duke lives above a tattoo parlor in San Francisco,and performs his act on the streets and in bars to support himself until the next circus season begins.
Part 2 of this book is about the self-destructive path of our story teller, Gary, an alcoholic ne'er-do-well. We meet Gary at his high school graduation ceremony. He is the student body president and is about to give the farewell speech. There is a problem. Gary is drunk and proceeds to give a speech that angers someone enough to throw an empty gallon bottle at his head. He is knocked unconscious, and then beaten so severely that he is unable to begin college until spring.
Unfortunately, the next 17 years aren't much better for Gary. He goes from one drunken debacle to another.
It is at one of Duke's street performances that Gary and Duke meet, and this is eventually, a life changing meeting for Gary.
What I love the most about this story is that Duke's heart is on full display in the way that he treats his circus family. I pulled for him to get out of the many scrapes that he fell into. I did not, however, understand his anti-Christian rant near the end of the book. It did not seem to fit with his live and let live attitude in life.
Alternately, Gary is an unsympathetic character. He seems to be a lucky loser who never really pays a price, until near the end, for his reckless drunken excesses which end up hurting himself, public property, and other people.
Given that the subject matter of this book is about drug addiction, alcoholism, and alternative life styles, this book may not be for everyone. However, the writing is deftly compelling, which is why I gave it a 4 out of 4 stars rating.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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