The Charlatan's Boy: A Novel by Jonathan Rogers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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 Take: I had no idea what to expect with this book but found the writing style similar to Mark Twain's Huck Finn. Then ending is so surprising, I simply didn't see it coming.
Grady is an ugly child who doesn't really belong. He's not a civilizer, not a drover, not a miner, not really anything. Floyd is his traveling companion and the talent behind the money making business. Like the traveling professor in "The Wizard of Oz," Floyd sells his wares or acts from a wagon. What he sells is usually Feechie.
What is a Feechie? you might ask. I have no idea but with a actor as good as Perfessor Floyd (No, that is not a typo) and a boy as ugly as Grady, their act is sure to entertain any in the vicinity. Until Feechies are no longer a curiosity or fear, that is. They try other acts but Feechies is where they bloom so the duo create a Feechie scare to get into the purses of all.
Entertaining and well written, the story is written first person by Grady. Just Grady. No last name. The writing never strays and Grady continues narrating the comings and goings with detail that had me giggling, capturing the personalities and quirks so very well.