4 out of 4 stars
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Duke Reynolds is a professional sideshow performer in the circus and his best act is swallowing five swords at once. When the circus is not in season, he performs on the streets trying to earn money to sustain his day-to-day life. During the prime time of the circus in 1967, life as a performer is hard, especially when one cheats death every show. Meanwhile, Gary Robinson is a kid who struggles with his addiction to alcohol. His student life is composed mainly of partying, drinking, and drugs. After college graduation, he decided to move to the town of Chico in California. But Gary can’t seem to let go of his addiction as he struggles to live every day, making one mistake after another. One day, Gary encounters Duke and what he didn’t expect was the impact this meeting will have in his life.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid is a fiction novel written by Gary Robinson. Set during the 1960s until 1980s, it is a time where prejudice is at large when it comes to people with tattoos, saying that it is reserved only for military men, sailors, and criminals. The use of drugs is also common especially for circus performers who are trying to stay awake in-between shows. This novel is a glimpse behind the lives of two struggling and troubled individuals living during those times. One who has lived past the prime of his life, and another who is to gain from him.
The book has three parts. Part one tells the story of Duke, part two narrates the conflicts of Gary, and the third is when their paths finally cross. The book is very honest, especially when narrating people’s addiction which includes drugs, especially methamphetamine. Alcohol addiction is also prominent wherein both main characters barely had a day where they were sober. It also tells the consequences of abusing such substances emphasizing the troubled times of the characters. But even so, Duke and Gary are characters that readers can empathize with, not by pitying them, but because they are the kind of people who are real and can still be seen in society today.
The book is very well written, and I didn’t find any errors or grammatical mistakes in it. It is also very easy to read and addicting. The only thing that stood out to me was the author’s habit of saying the character’s name another character is talking to when in a conversation, which happens in almost every dialogue. However, it is a minor issue, and it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the book.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The story tackles substance addiction, some mature content, and even philosophies regarding religion and the lack of it. Because of these, I would recommend this book only to adult readers.
The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid
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