4 out of 4 stars
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Gary Robinson’s The Sword Swallower And A Chico Kid provided a harsh yet surprisely accurate account of what happens when alcoholism and drug abuse meet raw talent, luck and perseverance. Duke and Gary, although a generation apart, lead similar lives testing fate and facing demons every step of the way. When I first saw the title, I wondered how Gary Robinson would intertwine what seemed to be two totally separate concepts. Yet, after reading the book, the lead characters’ paths were, in actuality, the same, just told from two different perspectives and eras. Duke’s life centered on him and his circus adventures, his histrionics and various dare devil stunts. Gary’s life was told from the view of a college student, a companion of society’s forgotten and finally a drifter and extroverted loner.
The Sword Swallower And A Chico Kid was amusing, exciting and heartbreaking. I found myself rooting for Duke and Gary’s success, chastising them for their faults, empathizing with their downfalls and hoping for their redemption.
I liked the raw depiction of abuse that people expose themselves to when they are hurting. Too often, these emotions are disguised but not in The Sword Swallower And A Chico Kid. I also like that the main characters although incredibly flawed were fearless. In a world where we are constantly obsessed with security, Duke and Gary throw every caution to the wind to feel alive, to test fate, to reach for the unreachable. There was also an undercurrent of masochism, Duke and Gary inflicted physical pain on themselves to take away from their emotional and social issues.
I did not like that the tales of their childhoods were not explored more deeply. Yes, the audience was provided a small glimpse of what made these two so wounded; however, I would have liked a little more background information. It would have also made for better book to have some closure with their perspective parents. I would not have expected a happy ending, real life is not always so pretty, but it would have been nice too see that happened to their parents and if maybe there was some understanding of both sides.
I give The Sword Swallower And A Chico Kid 4 out of 4. It was an excellent work of art. This book is a must read for all. Young adults should read it so that they are aware of the calamities that accompany alcohol and drug abuse. Adults will also find this book a very interesting. Life experience will make the events in this book reminiscent of someone that they know, someone that they are or someone that they wish that they could be.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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