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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Charlatan's Boy Review

Book Description:

 As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.

It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.

When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.

My Review:

This was another book I chose as being possibly interesting for my son to read (others included Crazy Dangerous, Crater, and Replication: the Jason Experiment).  The plot sounded interesting and to be honest I wanted to know what a "feechie" was.

Set in mythical Corenwald, a blend of Rogers imagination, old West America, and some British thrown in to the mix, the story focuses on Grady.  Grady is a decidedly ugly young man who assists Floyd in scamming the good folks in the country.  Grady thought for years that he truly was a feechie, an ugly race of people who were thought to live in the swamps and off the land, unable to really speak.  That is until the good country folk stopped believing in feechies and Floyd tried to make a few coins by promoting Grady as the ugliest boy in the world.

While I enjoyed the setting, the country dialogs, and the characters, this story seemed to just amble along with no real purpose.  Grady is searching for a place to belong, and he does eventually stumble upon it by accident, but when he does it feels like a let down.  I was disappointed in the ending, although glad that Grady did get some questions answered, many others were left unanswered for the reader.

Why did Floyd eventually turn on Grady?  Why did the innkeeper woman feel such an affinity for Grady and offer him a home?  Why were feechies looked down upon?  Why were they so separated from other folks?  What was the deal with Barbary, the beautiful daughter of another huckster?

In addition, since this was a Waterbrook Press publication I really expected something a bit more "religious" oriented.  There wasn't a Christian or religious tone to the book at all.  I don't think God (or any deity for that matter) was mentioned in the book at all other than as part of a scam (a praying machine) or that a persons ugliness was given by God.  

All in all when I finished the book I really felt like I had wasted my time.

You can read the first two chapters for yourself here

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