Book Review: The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers

Amazon summary
“I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud.”

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
The Charlatan’s Boy is a great fantasy book suitable for all ages. It’s the ultimate “finding yourself” story. The only life 16-year-old Grady remembers is travelling with con-man Floyd. One part of Grady longs for a home and a family, and he looks for someone who looks like him in every town they visit. As one of Grady’s claims-to-fame is being the Ugliest Boy in the World, this search makes for an entertaining narrative.  In one town, he does see a women who he thinks may be his mother and he gets very excited, only to realize that he was mistaken.

“I got ready to wrap my loving arms around her and claim her as my long-lost mama, but it was no luck. As she come closer, I seen she was the wrong kind of ugly.”

However, Grady also feels an attachment to Floyd. Floyd has always taken care of him, and Grady really doesn’t know any other life. When Short Fronie, a pub owner, offers to let Grady stay with her, he considers it. Until Floyd and excitement call again. Even after leaving with Floyd, Grady continues to wonder during the rest of the book if he shouldn’t just give it all up and go back to Fronie and finally have a “mama”.

Watching Floyd and Grady adapt their act over the years and seeing some of the things they come up with is also a lot of fun. It’s not all fun and games, though. Floyd and Grady are travelling hucksters and Grady’s starting to wonder if it’s really okay to lie to people all the time. What is amusing is how he rationalizes lying to some people about some things. He has categories in his head of who it’s okay to fool and which cons are acceptable. And don’t start leaving me crazy comments about that. Just read the book. Lying is my number one pet peeve, but I promise the book is funny.

I don’t think I can say anything more without giving away too much, but I think readers of all ages will enjoy this story. It’s a little bit of “sweet” with a whole lot of “silly”.

About the book
Title: The Charlatan’s Boy: A Novel
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Release date: October 5, 2010
Pages: 320
Where I got the book: I won it… somewhere. Possibly from the publisher.
Rating: 5 stars

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